LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the Juneteenth holiday continues to receive more recognition, one Lexington leader says it shows the continued impact of last summer's protests for racial justice.
Celebrations had already begun in Lexington on Friday, including an open mic night at Alfalfa Restaurant.
"Juneteenth is just a time to get together, celebrate, enjoy food, one another, each other's presence and to uplift each other in our community," said Debra Faulk, a comedian who hosted the open mic night.
Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas first learned of their freedom. On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday.
"When our protesters in all 50 states hit the streets, hit the ground, let their voices be heard, you saw so many things start to change," said Devine Carama, hip-hop artist and director of One Lexington.
The recognition has also expanded to the University of Kentucky, where Juneteenth will now be an academic holiday.
A Facebook post on the Lexington Community Action Council's page explains the organization's board of directors decided to observe the holiday months ago.
"It's just an amazing feeling and it kind of shows the progression that our country is making," Carama said.
But even with the expanded recognition, he also understands the concerns some have raised that this is just a symbolic step rather than an effort to improve racial inequality through legislation.
"I agree. It is very symbolic in nature but I think symbols can be very powerful, especially to our young people and our children," Carama said.
There is still a long way to go, he said, but recognizing the importance of Juneteenth is progress.