RICHMOND, Va. -- Janine Bell, president of the Elegba Folklore Society, has taken it upon herself to teach people about Juneteenth.
"So many people who have been living in Richmond all their lives have no idea about this history," she said. "They have no idea about this trail, and therefore they have no idea about Juneteenth."
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery.
It was on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, that news of the end of the Civil War reached the enslaved in Galveston, Texas, informing them they were free.
"It's important that people know again where we've come from to know where we're going," Bell said.
The Elegba Folklore Society, which works to provide unique educational opportunities through the arts, hosts an annual Freedom Celebration that teaches about Richmond's connection to slavery.
"The Juneteenth Freedom Celebration is one of those programs that helps to shine a light on untold stories,” Bell said.
One way Bell does that is by providing a walking tour of the slave trail which begins at the Manchester Docks.
"We call it The Trail of Enslaved Africans because a slave was a commodity, an object, something to be objectified, but these were African people,” said Bell.
The tour is normally held at night and is part of several events Elegba Folklore Society hosts in honor of the holiday, but due to the pandemic this year they'll have to avoid large gatherings and move the celebration online.
"Juneteenth 2020 a Freedom celebration on June 20, 2020 at 5 p.m. on Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo. We will have performances, we'll have speakers, we'll have art making for children,” Bell described.
Juneteenth is recognized as a holiday or day of observance in 47 of the 50 states and has been officially celebrated here in the Commonwealth since 2007. Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam said he would propose legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday.
The Elegba Folklore Society has been holding their freedom celebration since 1996, but Bell said this year, this time, might be its most important to date in honoring Juneteenth.
"It's Independence Day, our way. It's a backyard party! And I’ll just say what we're sharing with you today is a drop a in a deep well, " she concluded.