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Nevadans Celebrate And Reflect On Juneteenth Becoming A Holiday

Associated Press

President Joe Biden hands a pen to Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif, on Thursday after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

Juneteenth, a day that memorializes the emancipation of slaves in this country, is now a federal holiday.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. It came a year after a Juneteenth protest took place in Nevada during the nationwide fight over police reform and equality following the deaths of George Floyd and Briana Taylor.

Juneteenth has been celebrated by many in the Black community since 1865, just after the end of the Civil War.

"This is the moment where enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, and other parts of east Texas first heard about the Emancipation Proclamation," said Tyler Parry, assistant professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies Program at UNLV.

Las Vegas Councilman Cedric Crear said he wants people to use Juneteeenth as an opportunity to appreciate how far Black people have come in this country.

"Take a moment to recognize that Black people have gone through a tremendous amount to even be in the position to have the first Black president of the United States and the first Black female vice president," Crear told State of Nevada, adding he's hoping to make history himself and become the first Black mayor of Las Vegas.

Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy II said he wants to leverage the current attention on improving racial relations by investing federal COVID relief dollars in the largely Black Westside to develop an urban agriculture industry.

"One thing that I had in mind (is) changing where we can go in terms of being self-sufficient in terms of fresh food is doing research around urban ag," he said.

McCurdy said this will bring attention and investment to an economically challenged area.

 "This will be a massive investment into the Westside and, particularly, areas surrounding the Westside that have been hardest hit by COVID," he said.

On Saturday, Las Vegans will gather for the city's  20th annual Juneteenth festival, which will be marked in future years with a holiday on June 19. Because of the heat, the celebration will be held at the Doolittle Community Center starting at 6 p.m.

Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat who represents parts of the Southern Nevada urban core, attended the bill-signing ceremony in Washington. In a statement, he said, "On Juneteenth, we rejoice in our freedoms, understand the horrors of our nation’s past, and commit to building a more perfect union, with true liberty and justice for all." 


Cedric Crear, Las Vegas councilman, for Ward 5; William McCurdy, Clark County commissioner; Tyler Parry, assistant professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies Program, UNLV

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.