The 2024 Rochester Juneteenth Festivalelectrified downtown Rochester with vibrant colors, diverse sounds, and a spirit of unity. Hosted by the Greater Rochester Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the event marked 60 years of justice advocacy, celebrating African American culture under the theme “From 1964 to 2024: 60 Years in the Fight for Justice in Rochester.”

Mayukwa Kashiwa was among the performers in downtown Rochester on Saturday at a Juneteenth celebration.

Stephanie Ballard-Foster

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WXXI News

Mayukwa Kashiwa was among the performers in downtown Rochester on Saturday at a Juneteenth celebration.

The festival, held at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, culminated in the Juneteenth Elder Ceremony at The Strong National Museum of Play. The theme drew inspiration from the 1964 uprising in Rochester, aiming to assess the current state of Black Rochester and implement measures to prevent recurring challenges.

Simeon Banister, President and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, emphasized the importance of merging data with real-life experiences for effective action and progress. He highlighted the systemic challenges faced by the Black community, such as overcrowding and redlining.

“Juneteenth has often been misunderstood — as when the enslaved in Galveston, Texas learned that they were free,” he said. “It only takes two months to walk from Washington DC, to Galveston, Texas; it was two years before Major Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, to quote-unquote, ‘tell those that have been enslaved, that they were free,’” said Banister.

Banister stressed the significance of June 19, 1865, when the federal government fulfilled its promise, signifying accountability for institutions. He called for organizations to align their actions with the acknowledgment that Black lives matter and to deliver on their commitments to the Black community.

Kalonda Greene, one of the participants in Saturday's Juneteenth celebration in Rochester, urged active participation in honoring ancestors, and highlighted the importance of exposing children to their history to foster cultural awareness

Stephanie Ballard-Foster

/

WXXI News

Kalonda Greene, one of the participants in Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration in Rochester, urged active participation in honoring ancestors, and highlighted the importance of exposing children to their history to foster cultural awareness

Cherri Hawkins, Commissioner at the Greater Rochester Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, underscored the importance of education in the community, particularly in preserving and sharing stories with the younger generation. She emphasized the need for accurate and truthful education about Black history.

“We want to make sure that those who are educating our students and those who are in their ear that they are telling them the right thing, and that’s what the Greater Rochester Martin Luther King Jr. Commission under the direction of Simeon Banister, I believe, we’re trying to pave that way. So, the message is being clear and the truth,” said Hawkins.

Kalonda Greene, a member of the Society for Protection and Care of Children, participated in the Elder Ceremony and commended the event’s educational programs about Juneteenth. She praised the festival’s role in fostering creativity, education and heritage celebration.

“Celebrating your heritage is awesome. And so this event, as it grows, and I’ve seen it grow over the years, is continuing to educate and expose our communities in the best way possible,” said Greene.

Greene’s message to the community and youth focused on embracing heritage, creativity, and learning. She advocated for honoring ancestors through active participation and spoke about the importance of exposing children to their history to foster cultural awareness and appreciation.

“Our young people are our future. And we have to set them up for success,” she said. ” And as I said before, they got to understand where they come from so that they know where they’re going. And so, they can create that pathway towards being citizens themselves. That and bringing forth and educating and being participants,” Greene added.

The festival continues to grow and improve each year, and organizers encourage the community to join in celebrating Juneteenth as an opportunity to honor Black culture and history.