“It’s important because I feel like all Black kids should know their history, and learn more about our culture and where we’re from,” Atlanta native Victoria Brown, told Teen Vogue. This is her fifth year attending. “Don’t just learn about the basic stuff that people teach you, you need to see everything — for yourself.” Brown also expressed her continued support of this festival because of its structure, as a large, organized event that’s specifically for Black people. “Most importantly, it’s safe. As long as me and my kids are safe, we’re here all weekend.”
Morehouse graduate and Memphis native Adron McWright has been celebrating Juneteenth for years. “In Memphis, we do it every summer; it’s really big,” McWright says. “For our people, we don’t have a lot that’s just for us. This is something that we always need to have. It’s almost like our tribe and our community. Almost like what we would normally do if we were back home, back in Africa. It gives everybody a piece of what we come from. I think everybody deserves to have that opportunity to at least know a taste of what they come from.”
Sitting in a shaded area, vibing to the music was Willene Smith. 67-year-old Smith is part of Atlanta’s Juneteenth Parade & Music Festival planning committee, so not only has she attended all 10 celebrations, she has also helped plan them. “We started out as a small celebration, then we ended up in Mozley Park, afterwards, we celebrated two years on the campus of Morris Brown College. We outgrew that, and moved to the Home Depot Backyard, and now, it’s morphed into this,” she gestured toward the huge crowd of people occupying the park. “We’re really proud of it.”
As the holiday has received more recognition over the last few years, more Black people have seemed to embrace the day. “I’ve been celebrating Juneteenth since 2019. Before then, I honestly didn’t know what Juneteenth was,” says 33-year-old festival-goer Reco Webb. He recalls seeing Usher wearing a Juneteenth shirt a few years ago, which piqued his interest in the holiday. “That’s my favorite artist, so I looked it up. I got the background and history on the holiday. Afterwards I decided this was something I needed to be celebrating. Then it started getting more popular — more of my friends started talking about it. So, I converted from celebrating the 4th of July, to Juneteenth.”
The celebration wasn’t just relegated to the park — it made its way to and through downtown Atlanta streets. On Saturday, a parade that featured marching bands, floats, and dancers started at Liberty Plaza near the Georgia State Capitol, and ended at the festival grounds in the park.