SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) — Springfield’s Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center won’t officially re-open until August, but a special celebration had the center’s doors open for the first public event following nearly sixteen months of the pandemic enforced closing.

The Senior Center opened its doors for the first time since March 2020 with the celebration of Juneteenth becoming America’s newest national holiday.

It was appropriate having Mayor Domenic Sarno launch this first post-pandemic gathering at Springfield’s senior center. Following Friday’s multiple events celebrating this most welcome addition to America’s national holidays.

Maurice Powe said, “This holiday recognized by the commonwealth, Massachusetts and the city of Springfield. This is an opportunity to celebrate the sacrifices and everything the people have gone through to make this day possible.”

This was a time to reflect on how to build on what Juneteenth means to Black residents living in the Springfield area, but to also recognize why it’s taken this long for Juneteenth to reach its current status.

Shirley Whitaker said, “I think it’s important because so few people know our history and I think this could hopefully entice all Americans to look at this history and undertsand why we celebrate this day.”

The initial gathering following the pandemic, one of vital importance to the entire community. There have been Juneteenth observances down through the years, but this was the first as America’s newest national holiday.

Springfield’s senior centers will reopen to the public on August 9.