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Concord Celebrates Juneteenth, a Day of Remembrance 

New Hampshire State Senator Becky Whitley gives Fisto Ndayishimiye a hug after the Juneteenth celebration that he organized in front of the State House on Monday, June 19, 2023. Several state and local representatives spoke to the group celebrating the freedom of the last slaves at the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Gathered outside the New Hampshire State House in Concord on Monday afternoon, members of Change for Concord came with handmade signs to celebrate Juneteenth and honor those who fought to end slavery. 

Circled around a  black and white podium, passersby stopped on bikes and on foot to join the group listening to Fisto Ndayishimiye and Martin Toe talk about the importance of the day. Behind them, signs summarized the history of June 19, 1865. 

“Today, we are commemorating liberation, the end of slavery and a new era in this country,” Toe said. “This is an important day for Black people to remember the pain and suffering the nation endured and to celebrate the resiliency of those who were taken from their homelands and their families and didn’t know where they were going.”

Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Howard Thurman, Marsha P. Johnson, Dorothy Height, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Booker T. Washington are only some of the prominent Black figures in American history that fought for liberation, equal rights, diversity, and inclusion that have influenced civil rights today. 

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a document that freed all enslaved people in the Confederacy but it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the proclamation was delivered, that Major General Gordon Granger and some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to deliver the news that the civil war was over and all enslaved people were free. 

The anniversary of that day has since been known as Juneteenth and is celebrated across the nation as a symbolic end to American slavery. The holiday was not recognized nationally until two years ago and this is the first year it’s been observed in Concord as a paid holiday for municipal staff. 

“We celebrate freedom for all, however, even now, 150 years after this country ended slavery, the pains of slavery and colonization in our country’s past still ripple in our present day,” Ndayishimiye said. “Black people had to seek their freedom and there are still debates today whether the rest has been given to us.”

America’s history is complex between the ongoing struggles for racial justice and equality, Toe said, and Juneteenth is a day to honor the sacrifices of the people who died for that freedom. 

“Today is a day of remembrance and reflection, about how far our families have come and the odds of being alive in this country right now,” he continued. 

Despite the work that’s been done throughout the nation and here in Concord, local Black community leaders want to see more from the city and its residents, especially when it comes to education and representation, Ndayishimiye said, echoing the same call to action he has brought to City Council meetings for several months.

Speaking publicly, city councilors Jennifer Kretovic, Candace Bouchard and Stacey Brown vowed to continue the city’s efforts surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. Though Change for Concord hosted a Juneteenth event this year, Brown is hopeful the city will take over next year to honor the history of the day and celebrate the city’s Black community members. 

They were joined by school board member Sarah Robinson and State Senator Becky Whitley. 

“People laid down their lives so we can stand here together and celebrate and build a better New Hampshire where our kids don’t come home and tell racist stories at the dinner table,” Toe said.

Source: Concord Monitor