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GREENWOOD, Okla. — The Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, led by president Sherry Gamble-Smith, hosted the nation’s largest celebration commemorating the end of institutional slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865. According to Tulsa Juneteenth organizers, this weekend’s event attracted over 53,500 visitors from around the country.
“It was good to see so many people from not just Tulsa, but there were people from all across the country: from California, St. Louis, Atlanta. And we had several family reunions come to Tulsa to celebrate this historic event,” Pastor Jamaal Dyer, an event organizer, said.
Dyer credits the global media attention during the centennial for galvanizing large crowds at Juneteenth.
Hence, this year’s annual event comes two weeks after the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, which commemorated the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, a tragic event where a white mob, deputized by the City of Tulsa workers, destroyed homes and businesses in the city’s Black community. Legacy Fest was led by survivors and descendants of the 1921 Race Massacre.
“With us being on the hills of the commemoration of the [1921 Tulsa Race] massacre, the awareness attributed to people traveling to Tulsa to see Black Wall Street. So I think people were intentional about visiting around Juneteenth because they had already previously heard about our Juneteenth festivals,” he added.
Tulsa Juneteenth’21 on Black Wall Street ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/TbBAQzYIDW
— The Black Wall Street Times (@TheBWSTimes) June 21, 2021
This year, Juneteenth officially became a federally recognized holiday. Last Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law at the White House. President Biden was accompanied by 94-year-old Opal Lee, who pioneered efforts to make Juneteenth federally recognized for decades.
President Biden explained that Opal Lee experienced the horrors of racism when her childhood home was burned down by a racist White mob.
The President also mentioned the Tulsa Race Massacre. “By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history, and celebrate progress and grapel not the distance we come, but the distance we have to travel. As I said a few weeks ago, marking the 100 anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, great nations don’t ignore their painful moments – they don’t ignore those moments of the past, they embrace them.”
Notably, Biden fell short of mentioning H.R. 40, led by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, [D-TX-18], a proposal that commissions a study of the 246 years of institutional slavery in the Colonies and America and seeks to develop a reparations program for the descendants of African people enslaved in America.