PLAY Roanoke honors and celebrates Juneteenth at Booker T. Washington National Monument

Published: Jun. 19, 2023 at 6:05 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Monday was Juneteenth, a federal holiday dedicated to the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. People celebrated and reflected on the holiday’s history.

People from all across the state visited the Booker T. Washington National Monument for the commemoration of June 19. For the first year, PLAY Roanoke hosted a day trip for residents in the Valley to visit the park and honor Juneteenth.

Roanoke’s Park and Recreation tour director explained the organization wanted to recognize the importance of the holiday.

“It’s just important I think that we recognize it and that’s why we wanted to do that this year and to recognize that by doing a little trip for people,” Ernie Dale said.

Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday, with President Biden officially signing it into law in 2021. For Roanoke resident Clarresa Morton, it’s a day of celebration and awareness.

“Opportunities like Juneteenth remind all of us, all Americans, of our history, of our shared history, of our pain, of our successes, of our triumphs,” Morton said.

Felecia Parsell also attended the Juneteenth day trip and explained she attended Monday’s event to teach others about the significance of June 19.

“I want to learn as much about our freedoms as I can so that we can teach our kids and our grandkids, and that way we’re not repeating the poor history, the parts of history that are about a lack of freedom,” Parsell said.

Freedom has not always been for everyone, and Morton explained she hopes Juneteenth teaches the next generation how that freedom came to be.

“People my age remember, but younger people actually don’t remember as much as we like to think they do,” Morton said. “A memorial is more for them of an awareness for young people, but African American youth especially need that kind of heightened awareness of what the struggle was like.”

PLAY Roanoke plans to host another Juneteenth trip next year.