Juneteenth has been celebrated for over 150 years, but it wasn’t until Thursday that the important day officially became a federal holiday. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which declared that all slaves should be freed. For southern states, however, it took until the end of the Civil War in 1985 for the proclamation to be enforced. Even so, some chose not to inform their slaves of their independence. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with an important message. Two months after the end of the Civil War, the last slaves on U.S. soil were freed.
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) June 18, 2021
A Michigan dad named Shaun Dirden didn’t grow up celebrating Juneteenth. In fact, he and his wife Nikki only learned about the significance of the date about a decade ago. Now that they have children of their own, the couple wants to ensure that the next generation both remembers and celebrates the day that changed American history.
“I remember asking my dad and he said, ‘oh, I know about Juneteenth.’ And I said, ‘then why did we never celebrate it?’” Dirden recalled in an interview with Click On Detroit. “So he knew about it, but we never celebrated – that’s why I want to do something different with my daughters. So they can actually celebrate Juneteenth.”
Juneteenth is known by many names including Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Jubilee Day – each one signifying the incredible joy associated with liberation from slavery. Rather than celebrating Juneteenth as a family, the Dirdens decided to make Freedom Day an occasion their entire community would remember.
In an effort to both educate their community and celebrate the momentous day, the Dirdens began organizing an event called the Juneteenth Family Reunion. Everyone is welcome at this particular family reunion – in fact, over 1,200 attendees are expected at the third annual event.
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The first year the Dirdens organized their Juneteenth Family Reunion, several hundred people joined in the festivities. This year, nearly 30 vendors will bring food, music, entertainment, and so much more to the Dakota County residents. The annual celebration has grown every single year, with multiple organizers now coming together to make the powerful and joyous event a success.
“It all started with an idea…” the Juneteenth Family Reunion Website explains. “An idea to create a safe space for our community to come together to recognize and celebrate Black people, history, and freedom. Our vision was simple. Organize in the name of our ancestors.”