ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- The Elmira Economic Program hosted their annual Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, a celebration that has been happening for many years.  Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.  On June 19th, 1865, news reached Galveston, Texas that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed.

"I think its important because everybody needs to know that day when every American citizen was actually free. It wasn't just July 4th, there were a lot of Americans that were not able to use the Constitution as part of their life.  On Juneteenth, everybody was," said Dwayne Johnson, a member of the Elmira/Corning NAACP and Juneteenth Celebration attendee.

The day was marked with food, live entertainment, and community organizations coming together.  Hundreds of people from various walks of life participated, emphasizing the power of community in Elmira.
"Really the theme today is about unity and community and freedom," said Anita Lewis the Chief Development Officer at Elmira Economic Opportunity.  "Pretty much it's our theme most of the time, and celebration celebrating our black and brown entrepreneurs, our small businesses, because we see so many of them that we know are out here, and so our message is please, you know, let us know you're here...because we want to celebrate you."
Lewis said part of the day was about celebrating local black-owned businesses and giving them a platform in the community
"It's awesome that there's so many businesses, it's awesome that there are entrepreneurs that are out here.  It's also an example for young children who want to be entrepreneurs, to show them that it can be done if they believe and stick with it," said Arial Abdul Mumin, the owner of Ebony Creations.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th, and was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17th, 2021.