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Massachusetts marks 1st celebration of Juneteenth holiday

June 19, 2021 GMT
Imari Paris Jeffries, left, executive director of King Boston, holds a cell phone as he takes a selfie with Boston's acting Mayor Kim Janey and Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, far right, in Boston's Nubian Square during a Juneteenth commemoration, Friday, June 18, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Imari Paris Jeffries, left, executive director of King Boston, holds a cell phone as he takes a selfie with Boston's acting Mayor Kim Janey and Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, far right, in Boston's Nubian Square during a Juneteenth commemoration, Friday, June 18, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Imari Paris Jeffries, left, executive director of King Boston, holds a cell phone as he takes a selfie with Boston's acting Mayor Kim Janey and Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, far right, in Boston's Nubian Square during a Juneteenth commemoration, Friday, June 18, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON (AP) — Some of Massachusetts top political leaders gathered with activists and local residents Friday to celebrate the country’s newest federal holiday, Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston acting Mayor Kim Janey, a Democrat, were among those who came together to mark the holiday in Nubian Square in the city’s Roxbury neighborhood, which is the traditional center of Black life in Boston.

Janey, the first Black Bostonian to hold the city’s top political office, said Black residents of the city have been celebrating the holiday for years, but welcomed the federal action.

“It means that there is a recognition of the inequality that has been here in our country over a number of years, decades, and centuries and that people are willing to do that tough work and that we’re going to reflect on that and make sure that we’re rolling up our sleeves to tackle what remains,” Janey told reporters.

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Janey made the remarks earlier in the day as she and other city residents helped raise a Juneteenth flag over Boston City Hall. Among those participating in the flag-raising ceremony was Lt. Col. Enoch Woodhouse, who is one of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen — the primarily Black military pilots and airmen who fought in World War II.

“There are some areas that are not going to accept it,” the 94-year-old Woodhouse said. “But that’s why I’m happy to be a Bostonian.”

Baker last July signed legislation officially making June 19 a state holiday after protests gripped the nation following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

The move came more than a decade after the state’s only Black governor, Deval Patrick, signed the state’s first proclamation commemorating Juneteenth in Massachusetts.