A festive celebration full of pride, joy, love and laughter. This was the scene at The Cherry Hill Town Center in Baltimore’s historic Cherry Hill community as residents celebrated the Juneteenth holiday.

“It’s a joy to be here to see this day,” said Shirley Foulks, Cherry Hill native and co-director of the Youth Resiliency Institute, a community-focused education group founded in 2010. “I never thought I would see the day when Juneteenth became a federal holiday for every American to celebrate. African Americans, my ancestors, gave so much to this country and now we have at least one day to honor the day we all officially became free. We appreciate the national recognition but I think we all know there is still much more work to do for our rights.”

Juneteenth is a federal a holiday celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

In celebration of the holiday, a section of The Cherry Hill Town Center, owned by Catholic Charities and undergoing a community-led renovation, served as the backdrop for a spirited cultural gathering. Sankofa Dance Theatre, SoBo Drum Circle with Moziah Saleem, DJ Shawn Smallwood, and DJ GrownMan all served as performers brought together by Fanon Hill and his wife Navasha Daya, founders of the Youth Resiliency Institute.

“We are elated with the amount of people that came out to celebrate this wondrous occasion,” said Daya. “It’s important to celebrate the liberation of your people, because sometime our history can be forgotten and people can take things for granted if they don’t understand the fight, and the struggle our ancestors had to endure to survive chattel slavery.”

Acknowledging progress — and the work ahead

Baltimore City Councilwoman Phylicia Porter and Maryland State Senator Bill Ferguson also attended.

“This is an unbelievable neighborhood I’ve had the honor of representing over the last 11 years, and I’m happy to be here to celebrate Juneteenth here in the community,” said Senator Ferguson. “We have been able to have some amazing progress thus far, now we have to make sure we get home ownership opportunities. We must give people the ability to create and generate their own wealth, make sure the residents in Cherry Hill have the ability, the tools and the access to build their wealth. That’s the challenge ahead.”

The Youth Resiliency Institute looks forward to hosting its fifth annual Juneteenth celebration next year.