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Juneteenth

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As the United States marks only the second federally recognized Juneteenth, Black Americans living overseas have embraced the holiday as a day of reflection and an opportunity to educate people in their host countries on Black history. President Joe Biden moved quickly last year to federally recognize the day Black Americans have been celebrating since the last enslaved people were told they were free in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. In Liberia, Saqar Ahhah Ahershu, from Jersey City, is organizing the country’s first “Journey Home Festival.” He says this part of hidden African American history still hasn’t been completely unpacked. Some Black Americans say only a powerful change would make them consider returning.

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European benchmarks are higher after most Asian markets retreated, while the price of bitcoin hovered near $20,000. U.S. futures advanced and oil prices fell back early Monday. China kept its 1-year and 5-year loan prime rates unchanged as it struggles to spur a recovery while keeping coronavirus outbreaks under control. U.S. markets will be closed for the Juneteenth holiday and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is set to testify before Congress later in the week. The price of bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency bounced during the weekend, at one point plunging nearly 10% to under $18,600, according to the cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk.

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A year after Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the U.S., people gathered this weekend at events filled with music, food and fireworks. Celebrations also included an emphasis on learning about the past and addressing racial disparities. President Joe Biden signed legislation last year making June 19 the nation’s 12th federal holiday. June 19, 1865, was the day that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to order freedom for the enslaved Black people in the state. It was two months after the Confederacy had surrendered in the Civil War and about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the Southern states.

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On the eve of Juneteenth, the Tribeca Festival came to a close with the Rev. Al Sharpton documentary “Loudmouth.” The premiere united on stage Sharpton and Spike Lee — two towering New York figures who have each been vilified and celebrated for their championing of racial justice. The event was held Saturday at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. “Loudmouth” contextualizes Sharpton’s legacy as an extension of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. John Lewis and others, while chronicling his unique longevity despite plenty of naysayers along the way.

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Retailers and marketers have been quick to commemorate Juneteenth with an avalanche of merchandise from ice cream to T-shirts to party favors. But many are getting backlash on social media for what critics say is undermining the day. Juneteenth was designated as a federal holiday last year to honor the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. A search for Juneteenth items among online sellers like Amazon and J.C. Penney produced everything from toothpicks with pan-African flags to party plates and balloons. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, apologized last month after getting slammed on social media for a Juneteenth ice cream flavor of swirled red velvet and cheesecake under its store label Great Value.

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A group supporting African Americans within the North Carolina Democratic Party says it’s boycotting statewide party events this weekend because it said party officials overlooked Juneteenth and Father’s Day. The African American Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party said Wednesday that the party "did not consider its magnitude of disregard” for the holidays when it scheduled required meetings in Durham on Saturday, the day before both observances. Those meetings included the state convention and a fundraiser dinner featuring Gov. Roy Cooper and U.S. Senate nominee Cheri Beasley. Party Chair Bobbie Richardson says the party will honor and celebrate Juneteenth while conducting party business.

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The effort to officially celebrate Juneteenth as a paid holiday has faced skepticism inside legislatures that have largely chosen symbolic gestures to recognize the holiday while curtailing certain conversations on race and racism. Juneteenth honors when enslaved Black people in Texas were freed, representing the end of slavery in the U.S. Last year, Congress and President Joe Biden moved swiftly to approve June 19 as a national holiday. It was the first time the federal government had designated a new national holiday since approving Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. However, the move didn’t result in an automatic adoption from most states.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has declared Juneteenth as a state holiday. Juneteenth is recognized on June 19 each year and celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. Because June 19 this year falls on a Sunday and the following Monday is already a state holiday for West Virginia Day, Juneteenth will be observed this Friday as a full-day holiday for all state public employees. On Saturday evening, the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs will host a free Juneteenth celebration on the state Capitol grounds. The event will include bands and food vendors.

Several artists including Bun B, Lupe Fiasco and 6LACK have recorded songs honoring Juneteenth for Apple Music. Performers from different genres composed new tracks, while others recorded cover songs for the second annual “Juneteenth 2022: Freedom Songs” playlist, which launches Friday on the streaming platform. The playlist releases more than a week before the annual holiday – also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day – that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned about their freedom on June 19. The 16-song playlist also features country singer Brittney Spencer, reggae-dancehall singer Kranium, gospel singer Koryn Hawthorne and Latin rapper-singer Eladio Carrion.

Tens of thousands of North Carolina state employees are now provided with paid leave to observe a day of “personal significance" thanks to a new executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper. Starting later this month, workers in Cabinet-level agencies can get an additional eight hours of leave annually for an observance that includes but isn’t limited to days of cultural or religious importance. That could include days not listed in the paid holiday schedule like Juneteenth, Diwali, Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah. The state employee schedule already is at its maximum of 12 paid holidays.

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