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Biden celebrates Juneteenth early, vows to fight for Black Americans’ freedoms

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President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris marked the Juneteenth holiday with an early celebration at the White House, featuring performances by legendary artists Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, and rapper Doug E. Fresh.

The event underscored Biden’s ongoing commitment to advancing the rights and freedoms of Black Americans.

Biden, who signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law in 2021, reminded the nearly 1,700 attendees of the significance of June 19, the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

“Black history is American history,” Biden proclaimed. He emphasised the importance of continuing the fight for Black Americans’ rights amidst efforts by some political leaders to undermine these freedoms.

“The day reminds us that we have a helluva lot more work to do. Let’s keep marching. Let’s keep the faith,” Biden urged.

The celebration, emceed by comedian and actor Roy Wood Jr., included praise for the Biden-Harris administration’s contributions to the Black community, such as reducing prescription drug prices, expanding healthcare for veterans, investing in historically Black colleges, and providing student debt relief.

Vice-President Harris highlighted the day as a call to action for voting rights. She later joined gospel singer Kirk Franklin on stage for an impromptu dance, symbolizing the celebratory spirit of the evening.

Doug E. Fresh led a poignant moment, asking attendees to illuminate the South Lawn with their mobile phones in honor of African Americans who endured and resisted enslavement. The sight of thousands of lights against the setting sun created a powerful visual tribute.

The audience, which included singer and songwriter Raheem DeVaughn, Anthony Hamilton, Patina Miller, Brittney Spencer, Trombone Shorty, and Charlie Wilson, responded enthusiastically, with many dancing and clapping along throughout the nearly two-hour concert.

The early Juneteenth celebration comes as the nation gears up for a heated presidential election, with Black voters poised to play a crucial role in the outcome. Biden, who attributes his 2020 victory to the support of Black Americans, faces the challenge of maintaining their enthusiasm as he campaigns for reelection against Republican rival Donald Trump.

The event highlighted the administration’s recognition of Juneteenth as a significant moment in American history and its ongoing commitment to addressing the challenges and injustices faced by Black Americans.

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