Twin Cities Juneteenth Festival is more than just a celebration

This weekend kicks off several events commemorating the end of slavery in our country. Juneteenth is a celebration of Black history and freedom and a new event focuses on bringing more Black economic development to north Minneapolis.

Related: Juneteenth events in Minnesota: list

Established in Minnesota in 1984, Michael Chaney is one of the original founders of the Twin Cities Juneteenth Festival. Chaney says, "We spent 18 years really trying to grow the name."

This year in north Minneapolis, a celebration commemorating the end of slavery is returning to its roots.

"I think the genius of Michelle and the other founders is that they wanted to bring it back into the heart of the community," says Chaney.

Michelle Gibson of BOB Rewards Club, a business development service, is the lead organizer of the "Juneteenth West Broadway Block Party" taking place on Sunday. It's an event highlighting community, history, and the path ahead.

"We wanted to make a difference to the community, we want to like it says, we want to engage, embrace and we want to empower the community. We’ve been through so much, so it’s a time of healing," says Gibson.

Celebrated by African American communities across the county for decades, Juneteenth didn't become a federal holiday until last year. The initiative was pushed to the forefront following the murder of George Floyd. Gibson and Chaney say that it's a major step forward in the ongoing push toward equality.

"We are about not just about social change, we are about also economic change that is part of our mission is to change our status as people," says Gibson. Chaney goes on to say, "Juneteenth we felt should be a holiday available to all residents of Minnesota. And with the passing and federal legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday… so many years later it is good to see history catch up with some of the work people have been doing for a long time unnoticed and uncelebrated."

Sunday's event will take place on West Broadway from Aldrich to Emerson Ave. There will be live music, entertainment, and vendors. Festivities begin at eight in the morning and go until six in the evening. Metro Transit will provide free rides to the event.