NEW YORK -- A host of events were held in New York on Sunday to celebrate Juneteenth.
The holiday marks the emancipation of enslaved people in this country. In 2021, Juneteenth was celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time.
Music could be heard and dancing could be seen across New York City on Sunday.
A concert in Prospect Park brought people of all backgrounds to appreciate and learn about the Black experience in America.
"You know the real meaning of Juneteenth. It's not just fun. It's a serious thing behind Juneteenth," one woman said.
"It's very essential that they pass along that educational history to the next generation and the following generation to come. Otherwise, it gets distorted and it becomes insignificant," Ivette Simmons said.
And to remind others that although there has been progress, Black communities continue to face issues.
"It was just really a couple of years ago where I taught myself the meaning of Juneteenth. It was being stuck in the pandemic where I realized that there was more about Black history that even I needed to be aware of as a leader and somebody who knew that freedom was something that we're still fighting for and working for," Destiny Wesley said. "I think the best thing that another person could do of a different culture is to acknowledge or learn of what this day means for us and how you can be a part of it versus acting like this is just another regular day."
Councilmember Farah Louis helped host another gathering outside the Brooklyn Public Library.
"We have to celebrate Juneteenth. We have to celebrate Black culture, where we came from and understand what the ancestors did for us and what we need to continue to do to move forward," she told CBS2's Astrid Martinez.
Conversations and celebrations of Black history showed young people the importance of honoring their roots.
"And I hope that they learn that Black history is a part of our nation, and it should be spread worldwide," 19-year-old Daniel Isaacs said.
In Central Park, Mayor Eric Adams reminded people how the park was created and the African-American community that was lost.
"Imagine being displaced over and over and over again. When this village was torn apart to build this park, we displaced the energy of Seneca Village. It never came back," he said.
Adams highlighted the past to show the work of inclusivity must continue.
"We can't look in the rear view mirror and say 'We should have done better' when we are here right now. Let's do better right now. Let's acknowledge the presence of people and allow people to be part of the communities they built," he said.
Watch: Broadway stars perform free Juneteenth concert in Times Square
Broadway also celebrated Juneteenth in Times Square. The 90-minute show included performances from cast members from a number of Broadway productions.
The event also introduced the first-ever Juneteenth Legacy Awards. Broadway legends Ben Vereen and Leslie Uggams were honored for their decades of contributions to theater and for helping to pave the way for other Black artists.
"Take a look around the billboards. They'll tell you everything," Vereen said. "I think we're more inclusive now."
"There's so many talented, young Black actors and actresses, and they're getting a chance to do their thing and I'm so proud of that," Uggams said.
"It's a huge inspiration. I mean, those are the shoulders that we stand on. I mean, those of us that are here today, people who won Tonys last week, we are here because of people like Lena Horne, James Earl Jones, Ben Vereen, Leslie Uggams. We're here because those folks broke down doors for us," actor James Monroe Iglehart said.
The event was part of the Broadway League's initiative called Black to Broadway, which was created in 2019. The goal is to inspire engagement and access to Broadway for all Black people.
More events are scheduled in the Tri-State Area for Monday, when the federal holiday is observed.
Some of those events include:
- Around the Table: Stories of the Foods We Love at the New York Botanical Garden
- Juneteenth Jubilee at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, starting at 11 a.m.
- Juneteenth Cookout at UBS Arena in Elmont, starting at 11 a.m.
- A park renaming ceremony at Harriet Tubman Square (Washington Park) in Newark, New Jersey, at 11 a.m.
This is the first year Juneteenth is recognized as a paid holiday for city workers.
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