LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Juneteenth celebrations are kicking off around mid-Michigan this weekend, drawing in hundreds of festivities, including here in Lansing.

The holiday commemorates June 19 of 1865, when enslaved African Americans in Texas were declared free by Army forces at the end of the Civil War.

A Juneteenth parade in Lansing on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (WLNS)

In Lansing, a Juneteenth parade took classic cars, African American sororities and fraternities, and emergency vehicles through neighborhoods from Sexton High School to St. Joseph Park.

Organizers say the parade has grown in recent years, as a sign of the holiday being one that everyone can celebrate.

“We have folks from all nationalities out here, showcasing and being part of this great event,” said Juneteenth parade organizer Calvin Jones.

People gathered with family and friends to celebrate Juneteenth in Lansing on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (WLNS)

“And that’s what we want. We want everyone to come together. We are the heart of the city–we are the heart of the state of Michigan.”

At St. Joseph Park, the Freedom Festival brought together community resources, games and family activities. Attendees say events like today’s help create a wider understanding of why the date means so much, especially for the next generation.

Laraine Walton was attending the event in Lansing with family. “Helps build the culture, it helps with family, it helps build relationships and it just helps with bonding,” Walton said.

“When you know where you come from, when you know your information, it’s easier to claim your Blackness.”