The city of Albuquerque celebrated Juneteenth this weekend in Civic Plaza with numerous speakers, musicians, community leaders and artists. Leading the organization of this event was Nichole Rodgers, the city of Albuquerque’s African American community and business liaison with the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
City Council member Klarissa Peña helped introduce the festivities with a proclamation regarding the city’s celebration of Juneteenth and the need for continual support of the Black community.
“Juneteenth, known as Emancipation Day, commemorates the observance of the end of slavery in the United States,” Peña said. “The city of Albuquerque calls upon its residents to acknowledge and celebrate the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of Black Americans and to commit to eradicating systemic racism that still undermines the founding ideals of collective disparity.”
Mayor Tim Keller attended the Saturday festivities, opening the celebrations with a speech renewing his word and work in solidarity with the African American community in Albuquerque.
“Even though it’s a small African American community percentage-wise here in Albuquerque, we want to renew our commitment to these communities,” Keller said.
The planners of the event considered the safety of the community and audience greatly. Torrance Green, a member of the event’s organizing committee, stated that a safety plan was made well in advance and in coordination with security officers surrounding the event.
“(Gun violence) is something that we did take into consideration when planning the event … with everything going on nationwide,” Green said. “But we’re having fun nonetheless — nothing is holding us back.”
Vendors and audience members spread across the plaza, which was speckled with small exhibitions and an art exhibit — a display of shopping carts in memory of those who died in the massacre in Buffalo, New York and seats with backpacks commemorating the lives lost in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
During his introductory speech, Keller called for the community to look at the exhibit and recall these shootings and the effects of targeted violence throughout the country.
“I want to acknowledge this powerful art exhibit,” Keller said. “It’s an exhibit that we never want to have, but it’s something we need to display to remind folks of … what’s happening in our country. The shopping carts represent what happened in Buffalo at the shopping center, those chairs represent what happened in Uvalde.”
The difficult conversations of continual violence and disparity committed against marginalized racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups were intermixed with celebrations of rich cultural histories and continual resilience in the face of bigotry. For example, Green’s favorite aspect of the city’s Juneteenth celebration was the music, which combined contemporary works with classic soul music and spirituals.
“(My favorite part was) the music, for sure. We had a great lineup of local and national artists,” Green said.
Still, Green further emphasized the positive environment at the event and the importance of the city finally allocating resources to celebrate the holiday on a larger scale.
“It’s been pretty good, everybody’s showing up, having a good time,” Green said. “The city stepped up and provided the resources for the plaza … The community has always celebrated; the city’s just now acknowledging.”
Natalie Jude is the design director at the Daily Lobo. They can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @natalaroni