Juneteenth is the oldest celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19th, 1865 (two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect) that the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. The celebration carries the connotation that until we’re all free, none of us are free.
The Philadelphia Juneteenth Musicfest and Parade, started by the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Initiative, is a huge annual celebration attended by thousands where we join together to have fun, embrace our history and continue the tradition of Kujichagulia (self-determination).
In April, 2016, Kenny Gamble, Founder and Chairperson of Universal Companies, and Ali Salahuddin, co-founder of African Genesis Institute and Chairman of iBuyBlack, conceived the idea of producing a Juneteenth Parade and Festival in Philadelphia. Their vision was to produce a one day event that would include the laying of a wreath at the Presidents House in honor of the enslaved Africans held captive there by George Washington followed by a parade through the most historic square mile in America.
The first Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival took place on June 18, 2016. This event drew an audience of 5,000 people, 2 floats, 15 units and 50 vendors with the parade ending and the festival occurring at the African American Museum at 7th and Arch. And as they say “The rest is history”.
Over the past 3 years, the parade has grown and in 2018 the parade highlights were broadcast on 6abc to over 55,000 viewers. In attendance at the parade were over 1,500 participants, 20 floats and approximately 10,000 attendees.