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State College community marks Juneteenth with events, as Penn State officially observes the holiday

Musicians performing live at the Juneteenth block party in downtown State College.
Maddie Miller
Musicians performing live at the Juneteenth block party in downtown State College in 2022.

Community organizers in State College are marking Juneteenth with a celebration this weekend that will include art, music, dancing, poetry and food. The theme is “Threading the Fabric of Freedom" and the events will take place Friday and Saturday.

Leslie Laing, State College NAACP Educational co-chair and a chair of the Juneteenth events, noted the importance of the Juneteenth Celebration and the federal recognition it now has since 2021.

"It provides nationwide recognition of Black history, the oppression of enslaved people, and it illustrates the struggle between legislation and implementation," Laing said. "It continues to be impactful as we continue to share the legacy of contributions by African Americans, acknowledging the Black soldiers who signed up and served a nation that was unjust in the hope of earning their liberation. We continue to celebrate the advancement of people and promote the accomplishments of Black America. Most importantly, it enables everyone to understand that our fight for equality and freedom is far from over. The unity of the people, the equity of our government, and the peace that we need to live lives more fruitfully thread the fabric of our freedom.”

Juneteenth celebrates the day in 1865 when Black slaves in Texas were freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

This is the first year that Penn State is recognizing Juneteenth as an official university holiday, giving employees and students the day off.

 A poster for Juneteenth Celebration Weekend June 16 and 17, 2023, in State College, Pa.
This year's Juneteenth Celebration in State College will take place June 16 and 17. The theme is "Threading the Fabric of Freedom."

Laing, who is also director of Adult Learner Programs and Services at Penn State, said she hopes everyone will begin to think about what they can do to recognize the day.

“Not that they just get a day off to sit around," she said. "But they should really consider about what they’re contributing to our community to ensure that we have equity and peace and unity and freedom.”

The State College NAACP hosts the events, with the State College borough, the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State and the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

The opening reception for the Juneteenth Art Exhibition will be at 5 p.m. Friday at the Woskob Family Gallery on Allen Street.

The Juneteenth Block Party will take place 12-5 p.m. Saturday in the 100 block of Fraser Street and in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.