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A Day Of 'Hope,' As New Hampshire Celebrates Juneteenth

photo of performers
Todd Bookman/NHPR

Singing and drumming. Readings and reflection. 

It was all part of this year’s Juneteenth, the country’s newest official holiday, recognized with events around New Hampshire. 

“Events like this today is where we find our hope,” said Tanisha Johnson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Seacoast. Her group, along with TEAM, helped organize a day-long festival in Exeter marked by performances, food trucks and face painting for children.

“When our community comes together to celebrate Black history and acknowledge what parts of history were missing, that gives us hope.”

Juneteenth celebrates the day enslaved people in Texas in 1865 learned of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. 

New Hampshire first officially recognized Juneteenth in 2018. This week, President Biden signed legislation declaring it a federal holiday.

“It feels pretty good that finally Juneteenth has been an official national holiday,” said Theo Martey, director of the Akwaaba Ensemble, a Manchester-based group that performed in Exeter Saturday. The ensemble, which plays music and performs traditional dances from West Africa, performed beneath the Juneteenth flag, a red, white and blue banner with a bursting star at its center.

“We all feel great about it,” said Martey.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at
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