COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The 25th annual Juneteenth Ohio Festival is returning to Genoa Park this Saturday and Sunday. 

Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth honors the end of slavery in the United States when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to inform the state’s residents that slavery had been abolished – 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. 

The holiday is also known as Black Independence Day, Freedom Day, and Emancipation Day. Even though slavery was abolished more than 150 years ago, Juneteenth was not made a federal holiday until 2021.

“Juneteenth is considered the official all people’s freedom festival,” said Mustafaa Shabazz, an organizer for the Juneteenth Ohio Festival.

The owner of Ujamaa Bookstore, Shabazz said he didn’t learn about Juneteenth until 1989. 

“[I] was like, wow, this has never been taught in school, how come I didn’t know this?” Shabazz said. “It really became a part of me.” 

At the time, Shabazz and others in the Black community had been hosting a yearly cultural festival. After 1989, the festival shifted to celebrate Juneteenth. The first festival was intimate, with about 50 people at the Neighborhood House. From there, the festival expanded to Franklin Park before landing at Genoa Park where it is now hosted every June. 

This weekend, guests will find an array of food, live entertainment, and vendors, along with a car show and a career fair. In addition, musical artists Slave, Glenn Jones, Adina Howard, and Michel’le will be performing. 

Gate admission from noon to 3 p.m. for the performers is free. Tickets purchased online are $5 for children and $10 for adults. Tickets bought the day of the show are $15. 

Funds from the festival and the performances benefit Juneteenth Ohio’s factual literacy initiatives. The initiatives are dedicated to the collection and dispersion of nonfiction literature showcasing Black history and achievement, including books by American Civil War historian and author James McPherson. 

“’The Negro’s Civil War’ by [McPherson] is a factually literate book which [documents] the generals of the Civil War who had to send in reports of what they were seeing,” Shabazz said. “McPherson collected those memoirs and brought them into a book that reflects Black female’s sheroic and male’s heroic activities in helping the union win the Civil War.”

Shabazz said the festival gives organizers an overwhelming sense of hope and provides an outlet for the Black community to share its history with America and the next generation. 

“Our ability to tell [our story] to the next generation in a factual, culturally sensitive way, I think that is what will bring the hope that we need and the unity that the country needs,” Shabazz said. 

Visit the Juneteenth Ohio Festival from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. View show times and purchase admission tickets here.

Another Juneteenth celebration, Juneteenth on the Ave, will take place in Bronzeville Columbus on Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. For more information about that event, click here.