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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A celebration of freedom rings out this weekend in Kansas City.

This year’s Juneteenth KC observance marks the first time the federal government formally recognizes the holiday, and that wasn’t lost on people in Kansas City’s Jazz District on Friday.

Kansas City can trace its observation of Juneteenth back to 1980. Thanks to volunteers, such as Natasha Fuller, who directs Juneteenth KC’s parade, the Jazz District will host a meaningful gathering on Saturday 18th and Vine. Juneteenth KC’s parade was held last Saturday.

To understand Juneteenth is to recognize the struggles African Americans have endured.

“It requires buy-in. There are people of African-American culture who don’t know what Juneteenth is,” Fuller said. “Accepting and celebrating that Juneteenth celebration allows us to uncover more American history that we don’t know and people aren’t familiar with. It’s a great time to learn more American history as it pertains to the African-American culture.”

On Thursday, President Joe Biden formally recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday, something African Americans have sought for years. The holiday recognizes the close of the slavery era associated with the Civil War, and the liberation of the final remaining slaves. 

Various groups around the Kansas City metro enjoyed the spirit of volunteerism on Friday, giving of their personal time to benefit others. Kiera Burton will do that on Saturday morning, helping coordinate the festival, which begins at noon.

“I remember hearing it in school that we were celebrating the white heroes. It’s like we’re just reclaiming our history and acknowledging that we were once enslaved, and now, we’re free. It’s acknowledging that and celebrating that.” Burton said.

Burton and Fuller agree that inclusion of everyone in the Juneteenth KC celebration provides a better understanding of the African American culture and, thereby, bridges the gaps between races.