Organizers promote peace, unity on Juneteenth Day

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Hundreds lined the streets of Milwaukee on Wednesday morning, June 19th for the Juneteenth Day Parade -- kicking off the annual Juneteenth Day celebration. This year, many gathered in an effort to show a united community standing against violence.

"I just felt like I wanted to be part of the cause. Help get the word out and be peaceful," Kendra Jones said.

This year was Jones' first year taking part in the Juneteenth Day festivities.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas in 1865.

"Been part of Juneteenth since I was in high school, and never stopped -- so since 1996," Tony Hibbler with the Paradigm Drum Line said.

The annual Juneteenth Day Parade is a much anticipated community event that began Wednesday near 16th and Atkinson.

"This neighborhood lives for this parade. They`ll start to line up. They`ll come out of their houses, sit on chairs -- they`ll line up and wait and enjoy the whole parade," Juneteenth Day Parade Chairman Stevenson Jeffries said.

Hibbler said this day was about uniting the community -- and teaching youth the importance of making good choices and staying out of trouble.

"It`s a community thing first and foremost. My group is about getting the kids off the street and giving them something to do so they`re not using their idle time to be violent or commit crimes," Hibbler said.

Organizers say this year's parade -- one focusing on both the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march on Washington, D.C. is a good place to teach the importance of peace.

"We want to help people be better, like if they did something else, we want to show them how to fix it and do the right thing," Donovan Sparks with Running Rebels said.

The Juneteenth Day Parade was followed by performances at Rose Park.