NEW JERSEY - Hope and remembrance were the themes of the day on Friday as Juneteenth commemorations began nationwide.
In Paterson, New Jersey, a Juneteenth flag was raised to mark the newest federal holiday, one of several events across the tri-state area.
"My grandparents were sharecroppers and my mother picked cotton and churned tobacco. Today represents freedom, God bless the freedom not just of African-Americans, but of everyone that lives in the great United States of America," said Paterson Council Vice President Dr. Lilisa Mimms.
Governor Phil Murphy had already signed a bill into law last September making Juneteenth a New Jersey state holiday. Murphy made a point to say that Juneteenth events should be commemorated, rather than celebrated.
"It was June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas when the last slaves in our country were told they were free, that’s great except Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation in January 1863, so they lived 901 days in slavery not knowing they were free," said Murphy.
In New York City, the parks department dedicated an area in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to be called "Juneteenth Way."
Meanwhile, in Manhattan on Friday night, an event called Shop & Sip is being held in Harlem as a way to promote black-owned businesses through restaurants and retail.
"It’s important for us to celebrate the accomplishments of those who have paved the way for us, to remember their sacrifices as well as to prepare ourselves for a future so our children and future generations can have more to celebrate looking forward," said Angie Hancock, who is running the event.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan on Thursday, which will include 2,800 four-year CUNY scholarships for Black and low-income students, scholarship accounts for every public school child in the city beginning in September, and giving over 200 students paid internships, work experience and career prep thanks to the Brooklyn Recovery Corps at Medgar Evers College.
"Juneteenth marked the end of slavery, but not the end of systemic, structural racism in America," de Blasio said in a statement. "To begin to repair harms of the past, New York City is investing in the future and building generational wealth."
Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. Download for FREE!