BUFFALO- This morning, Mayor Byron W. Brown joined representatives from Juneteenth of Buffalo, Buy Black Buffalo, and The FreeTHEM Walk, to announce a joint celebration for this year’s Juneteenth holiday. The announcement came following the Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony at Niagara Square. In response to global COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Juneteenth celebrations include virtual and in-person events at various locations. In addition to honoring African American culture and history, this year’s Juneteenth celebration includes initiatives supporting black-owned businesses and raising awareness about human trafficking or modern-day slavery. M&T Bank presents the collaborative Juneteenth celebration.
Mayor Brown said, “I am happy to partner with these wonderful organizations, both established and emerging. 2021 marks the first year that Juneteenth is a paid holiday for City of Buffalo employees. I encourage everyone to use their time off to reflect on the importance of freedom and celebrate the history of the African American community. I applaud Juneteenth of Buffalo for their tireless efforts over the years that have made Buffalo a leader in Juneteenth celebrations throughout the nation.”
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is a holiday that commemorates the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the emancipation of all enslaved people in the United States. The announcement came on June 19, 1865, shortly after Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse. The word “Juneteenth” is the combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth” and is primarily celebrated in African American communities.
“Juneteenth is a time to remember the enslavement of Africans in America for centuries,” said Jennifer Strickland, president of Juneteenth Festival Inc. “We also celebrate the glorious history of our survival, culture, faith, freedom, and pride. Our partnership with Buy Black Buffalo and The FreeTHEM Walk supports Black- owned businesses and brings greater awareness to human trafficking; also known as modern-day slavery. These relationships, along with our initiatives, educates and enlightens our community.”
To celebrate Juneteenth, Buy Black Buffalo will host another Buy Black Buffalo Week leading into the holiday. The organization has invited Black-owned businesses in Erie and Niagara counties to participate by encouraging them to offer specials and promotions that encourage residents to shop at local Black-owned businesses from June 13 through June 19. On June 18 and 19, residents can enjoy free cultural performances at select businesses throughout the city. Black-owned business owners are welcome to learn more about Buy Black Buffalo events or register their business for free by visiting buyblackbuffalo.com.
“Juneteenth is independence day for former slaves, the ancestors of Black Americans”, said Shatorah Donnovan, Chief Diversity Officer for The City of Buffalo. “Buy Black Buffalo is on a mission to provide resources to the Black community that will bridge the wealth gap, restore trust between small businesses and large corporations, and encourage everyone to shop locally. These goals aim to create economic freedom for all.”
Juneteenth weekend will include the anticipated return of a group walking 902 miles to end modern-day slavery. Project Mona’s House founder Kelly Diane Galloway and 14 others are walking to raise awareness about human trafficking. The journey, called The FreeTHEM Walk, traveled from Lynchburg, Virginia, through five east coast states on the Underground Railroad route, teaching communities about the crime. Galloway and The FreeTHEM Walkers will arrive in Buffalo on June 19. The group will walk 901 miles to Buffalo City Hall and be greeted by elected officials and community members. Following that, the crowd will walk the final mile of The FreeTHEM Walk together, ending at an outdoor Juneteenth celebration in the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor. The corridor is the last stop on the Underground Railroad in the City of Buffalo.
“Generations ago, enslaved Africans were victims of human trafficking”, said Galloway. “They were bought and sold for labor, sex, medical experiments, organs, and entertainment. Today, human trafficking affects people from all walks of life. The FreeTHEM Walkers and I are walking to free those people. I am very excited to return home this month to join The City of Buffalo, Juneteenth of Buffalo, and Buy Black Buffalo to celebrate a day of freedom.”
Juneteenth of Buffalo celebrates its 46 consecutive festival this year with virtual and in-person programming throughout June. On June 19, the festival will stream a cultural presentation for the public to enjoy on their website and Facebook pages. Juneteenth of Buffalo, Inc. will host events during Sankofa Days, which symbolizes the quest for knowledge. Activities for Sankofa days are happening now. Visit buffalojuneteenth.com for a complete listing of Juneteenth of Buffalo events presented by M&T Bank.
“M&T Bank is proud to be presenting sponsor of Juneteenth this year”, said David Femi, manager of multicultural banking. “Connecting with our community and celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Buffalo is a priority for M&T. We are pleased to see this rich collaboration between Juneteenth of Buffalo, Inc, Buy Black Buffalo, and the FreeThem Walk. Today and every day, we at M&T honor the sacrifices of our ancestors in our communities and remain committed to the work ahead. Together we will continue to uplift our communities, strengthen our economy and celebrate untold stories in City of Buffalo and throughout the region.”
For more information about calendar activities by Juneteenth of Buffalo Inc., please visit buffalojuneteenth.com. To register a business for Buy Black Buffalo, visit buyblackbuffalo.com. If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking and looking for assistance, contact Project Mona’s House at 716-795-MONA. For more information or to donate to The FreeTHEM Walk, visit the web at www.thefreethemwalk.com.
Buy Black Buffalo was established in December 2020 as part of a citywide shopping movement called Buy Black Buffalo Week, which aimed to support Black-owned businesses, especially ones that suffered economic challenges due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic. Following Buy Black Buffalo Week, organizers and participants determined that continued support was necessary. Buy Black Buffalo aims to serve the local community by providing small business resources, education, and assistance to Black business owners and Buffalo workers. For more information about Buy Black Buffalo, visit buyblackbuffalo.com.