SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The city of Springfield observed Juneteenth a day early Friday with a ceremony and flag raising at city hall.
People gathered at the steps of City Hall to reflect on the first federally-recognized Juneteeth holiday for America. They’re looking at it as a victory, but also as a reminder that there’s room for improvement.
Mayor Domenic Sarno joined with Congressman Richard Neal and members of the Juneteenth Planning Committee to raise a Black Lives Matter flag. Among Friday’s speakers was Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez who talked about the significance of this commemoration.
“We are here, arm in arm, hand in hand, because we must proceed to learn to love, to legislate and to lead in compassion. Days like this I’ve dreamed of,” said Senator Gomez.
22News reporter Katrina Kincade, who was recently crowned Miss North shore, also spoke at the event.
“When I went to my predominantly white school, I didn’t learn about Juneteenth but it was something that my family was so proud, having my great great grandmother, having been a slave, having her free papers. It’s so important to teacher younger children because if they don’t, this is just a holiday,” said Katrina.
There was agreement that Juneteenth may not have happened without George Floyd.
“Without the George Floyd movement I don’t think we could be standing here,” said State Representative Bud Williams. “It was really embarrassing to America that this could actually happen in this day of age, but its been going on for a long time.”
They raised the Black Lives Matter Flag, a symbol of hope, but also a reminder to do more to ensure equal opportunities for black communities.
“America said, hey, we’ve seen enough, and so far so good. But it continues,” said Williams.
Greg Ellerbee of Springfield told 22News, “Once we get past those hurdles, how can I say this politely, stop tap dancing around issues and get down to the nitty gritty because I believe this world is an outstanding place, but it can be a lot better.”
Juneteenth, which commemorates the 1865 announcement by the Union Army to enslaved people in Texas that they were free, actually falls on Saturday, but is being observed on Friday by some local governments, including Springfield’s. All city offices will be closed Friday, though trash pickup will continue as scheduled.
Several community events are planned in Springfield for the actual holiday on Saturday, including events in Court Square and Blunt Park.