CULTURE

11 New Yorkers on the Meaning of Juneteenth

Alexa Palacios-Pierre at the Brooklyn Museum's "Honoring Juneteenth" event
Photo by Souls in Focus

Juneteenth has been celebrated across America since the late 1800s, but has never been recognized as an official federal holiday until just this week. For many, the change was welcome, but just the beginning of the work that needs to be done—like “educating future generations on what we as Black people have been through,” as the New Yorker Vinn Bryant put it at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event on Saturday, June 19. The institution was founded three decades after the day when enslaved people in Texas found out they had technically been free under the Emancipation Proclamation for two-and-a-half years. It’s hardly alone in just beginning to commemorate and celebrate that historic moment—and in planning to for years to come. (This year they did so with the locals behind the Good Company Bike Club, Meditating for Black Lives, and the Black Chef Movement.) Meet some of the hundreds in attendance, who shared the personal significance of Juneteenth with the New York City-based visual artist collective Souls in Focus, here.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth means celebrating us.” —Brittany (left)

“Freedom for myself and my future children.” —Yvonne (center)

“It’s a reminder that ‘progress’ and ‘emancipation’ don’t always mean things are healed. I was so blown away the first time I realized no one told them they were free. But I know I'm free, and I'm going to act out in honor of my ancestors.” —Janine (right).

Photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth feels like something new that I just now get to experience.” —Naya M., photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth is, simply, a time to celebrate genuine humanity.” —Caden Witt, photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth means liberation.” —Althea Palacios, photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth means I be myself, no matter where or who I am.” —Rashad Rogers II, photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“To me, Juneteenth is both a day of celebration and reflection. A day to look to the past and hope the best comes in our future.” —Vinn Bryant, photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth means uplifting Black voices and celebrating each other.” —Tierra White, photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth means celebrating our accomplishments while acknowledging how far we need to go. Overall, beauty.” —Osadolor Osawemwenze, photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.

Photo by Souls in Focus

“Juneteenth means a significant step toward Black liberation, which we are continually fighting for in honor of our ancestors and predecessors.” —Alexa Palacios-Pierre, photographed at the Brooklyn Museum’s second annual “Honoring Juneteenth” event in New York City by the collective Souls in Focus.