Juneteenth 2021: Events, Festivals to Celebrate in DC, Maryland, Virginia

The Juneteenth holiday is celebrated June 19. Here's how to celebrate in the D.C. area

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On June 19, 1865, more than 250,000 Black people who were enslaved in Texas finally learned they were freed under the Emancipation Act.

It had taken more than two years for Union soldiers to reach Galveston Bay and ring the bell of freedom in the westernmost area of Confederate territory.

"Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day," the National Museum of African American History and Culture says.

Friday’s Juneteenth Freedom Reception was supposed to be a push for change, but instead, it turned into a celebration. News4's Jackie Bensen reports from a joyful gathering at the MLK Memorial on what organizers call a first step.

Is Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021?

On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Most federal employees observed Juneteenth the following day, Friday, because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year.

Some retailers and businesses were also observing the holiday. Patagonia announced that all of its U.S. stores would be closed Saturday, and its corporate offices would be closed Monday. Other brands, including Target, J.C. Penney and Best Buy, had pledged last year to adopt Juneteenth as a paid holiday, though they are keeping stores open. Several major banks have said employees will get a floating paid day off.


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Washington, D.C. Juneteenth Events

Juneteenth Lighting for Freedom and Justice
The National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW, D.C. 
June 15 to June 19

The Washington National Cathedral is being lit nightly to recognize the celebration of Juneteenth, from June 15 to 19 from 9 p.m. to sunrise.

Aimee Cho found out how to mark the new federal holiday and learn something all at the same time.

Moechella Juneteenth Weekend and Unity Fest
2700 Martin Luther King Ave. SE, D.C.
All weekend

Moechella, a group dedicated to preserving D.C.'s legacy of go-go music and sharing its importance in Black history, is hosting a Juneteenth weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Join Long Live GoGo's newsletter for information about rallies.

On Friday, there was a Rock the Block Party at Audi Field that included free workouts to live go-go music.

On Saturday, join the Million MOE March for Equity and Justice starting at Black Lives Matter Plaza to U Street. The march will feature Top Band, Ambition Band and N2L.

On Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., join Moechella's Unity Fest at Gateway Pavilion for a day of free music on two stages featuring Junkyard, EU feat Sugar Bear, TOB, Ambition, ABM and MTM. There will be vendors, food trucks and a kids' haven.

What Is Black Art Exhibition
The Eaton DC, 1201 K St. NW, DC
Exhibit available June 25 to July 9

BlkArthouse is hosting artworks by 19 Black artists from around the world at the Eaton Hotel. You can join the opening reception Friday, June 25, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25.

You can visit "What is Black Art?" by walking in until June 27 or by appointment from June 28 to July 9.

ONE DC Juneteenth in DC
2500 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, D.C.
June 19, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

ONE DC will celebrate Juneteenth and the reopening of their Black Workers and Wellness Center, a community-run space in Anacostia used to organize for racial and economic justice. Their Juneteenth celebration will feature tours of the building, live music by local artists, food vendors, mutual aid and community outreach booths and more.You can visit the Black Workers and Wellness Center between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.; RSVP here.

Georgetown Professor Soyica Colbert explains that Juneteenth and other milestones in African American history are not studied enough in schools – in part because the legacy of slavery contradicts the American self-identity of being a beacon of freedom.

The Second Annual Juneteenth Ride and Run
804 N St. NW, D.C.
June 19 and 20

Runners can choose from two distance options, a 10K or a half-marathon. The half marathon will take participants along the entire Civil War Defenses of Washington Trail.

Cyclists can ride 6.19 miles in solidarity to represent the date, June 19. Following the 6.19-mile group ride, riders have the option of riding longer distances by joining either the 18-mile group or the 65-mile group. Together, these distances represent 1865, the year the final enslaved people learned of abolition.

Join this event early Saturday or Sunday morning at Fort Stanton Park. Admission is free, but registration is required prior to the event.

Juneteenth Jubilee Homecoming
1455 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, D.C.
June 20, noon

This march, sponsored by Juneteenth Jubilee, is an event for Black conservative candidates and their supporters. It begins at 12 p.m. at Freedom Plaza. Registration is required.

Maryland Juneteenth Events

Prince George’s County Juneteenth Hybrid Festival
Virtual and in-person events at various locations
June 14-19

The Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting a virtual art exhibition, panel discussions and in-person celebrations at the Montpelier Arts Center, Ridgeley Rosenwald School and Oxon Hill Manor.

Events are free, but some require registration. 

City of Laurel Juneteenth Celebration
8103 Sandy Spring Road, Laurel, Maryland
June 19

The City of Laurel is hosting guest speakers, the Malcolm X Drummers and poetry readings to celebrate Juneteenth. You can join at the Council Chambers of the Laurel Municipal Center at 12 p.m. The Juneteenth Program can be watched live on the city’s Facebook page.

Northern Virginia Juneteenth Events

Outdoor Juneteenth Musical Celebration
711 Princess St., Alexandria, Virginia
June 17, 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

Part of Classical Movement’s Sounds of Hope and Harmony series, this outdoor musical celebration of Juneteenth features singers, dancers, pianists and speeches at The Rectory. 

The concerts are at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $42.

Juneteenth Celebration at First Baptist Church
450 Orchard St. NW, Vienna, Virginia
June 19, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This celebration will include live music, kids’ performers, civic organizations, food trucks and a kids’ book giveaway. There will also be craft vendors with a focus on Black-owned businesses. First Baptist Church will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic during the event.

Juneteenth Celebration at Ida Lee Park
60 Ida Lee Drive NW, Leesburg, Virginia
June 19, noon to 6 p.m.

Created by the “BURG” Family Reunion Club, this event at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg will include guest speakers, musical acts including the Chuck Brown Band, food, craft beverages and more. 

This event is free and open to the public.

Juneteenth Cel-liberation in Culpeper
N. Blue Ridge Ave., Culpeper, Virginia
June 19, 4-8 p.m.

This event in historic Culpeper will celebrate and unify the Black community. It will feature a DJ, moonbounce, water activities, a basketball tournament, community raffle, giveaways and more. 

You can join the celebration between 4 and 8 p.m. at Yowell Meadow Park.

News4’s Pat Lawson Muse spoke with Loyola University Maryland Associate Professor Dr. Karsonya Wise Whitehead about the effort to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
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