Thousands gather for inaugural Omaha Freedom Festival celebrating Juneteenth

Last week President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday
Updated: Jun. 19, 2021 at 10:34 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Saturday marked a historic day across the United States as hundreds of thousands of people gathered to celebrate Juneteenth, including thousands of people on grounds of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation in Omaha.

“It’s pretty fun. Right when I got here I started running around and it’s pretty cool,” said Sasha Okareke, who was excited to play in the “Kids Zone” at the first-ever Omaha Freedom Festival.

Juneteenth, also known as Black Independence Day signifies the freedom of enslaved people in the U.S.

“I think it’s just a beautiful event for every Omahaian to be celebrating,” said Connie Blackburn, who spent part of her afternoon at the festival where there were plenty of live music, games, snow cones, and a whole lot more, including a mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

“It’s very important for us to be out here to help educate and encourage our community to come out and get vaccinated,” said Jacqueline Cook, Community Engagement Specialist, Charles Drew Health Center.

“We wanted people to feel free, we wanted people to be entertained, and we wanted to empower them,” said Calvin Brown, President/CEO of Freedomtainment and founder of the Omaha Freedom Festival.

“We want them to feel like they have choices and that they have resources and people in this community who care about them,” said Brown, who grew up in North Omaha.

“I think it’s just a really great festival to keep on the remembrance and help people remember our history,” said Jonnisha McCleod, on her way out of the festival.

“All slaves were let out of the slavery place, so I think it’s important that people are here to support that,” said 10-year-old Jailynn Webb.

All the support was certainly felt by the festival’s founder.

“I love seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces today,” said an emotional Brown. “I love that everyone is entertained and empowered, and I just couldn’t have a better event.”

Last week President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday.

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