NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Saturday is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the freedom of enslaved people in America, and this year marks the first time it’s a federal holiday.
Celebrations are already underway in our area, including a block party in Harlem.READ MORE: Suspected Human Remains Found In Florida Wildlife Preserve Where Authorities Are Searching For Brian Laundrie
It was the kind of celebration that brought Esmay Robinson to her feet. The 89-year-old was unable to contain her joy.
“This is a celebration. A Black celebration. All them years of suffering, and this is, this is New York, baby,” Robinson told CBS2’s Nick Caloway.
The city-sponsored Juneteenth block party brought hundreds to Harlem’s St. Nicholas Park to dance, sing and to reflect.
“I think this is wonderful. It’s just a wonderful day, it’s a great day and it’s about time,” Harlem resident Elaine Cord said.
“This is history-making and a long time coming, so we are very excited about the passage of this holiday,” Bronx resident Debbie Archie said.
Now a federal holiday, June 19 is a day that commemorates the end of slavery in this country.READ MORE: New York City Mayoral Candidates Eric Adams, Curtis Sliwa Meet For First Debate
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio say it’s a major step forward in recognizing the sins of the past, but the fight for racial equality must continue.
“We all know that slavery officially ended in 1865, but we also all know that, in many ways, slavery is still with us and we have to fight it every day,” Schumer said.
“Juneteenth is a moment to recommit ourselves to change, to action, to not accepting the status quo that we all know is still broken,” de Blasio said.
Harlem resident Yvonne Davis says she hopes this is the catalyst for real change.
“I hope this is the beginning of something. It just doesn’t end here. That it will still move on and recognize our history and what we’ve been through as a Black people in America,” she said.
From Harlem and across the five boroughs, New Yorkers came together, many for their first ever Juneteenth celebration, but they say it definitely won’t be their last.MORE NEWS: Mayor De Blasio Announces Vaccine Mandate For All New York City Municipal Workers, Including First Responders
CBS2’s Nick Caloway contributed to this report.