Cincinnati artists completed their Black Lives Matter mural right on schedule Friday, finishing up two days of nonstop work on Plum Street in time to see the Juneteenth flag hoisted over City Hall.
Both symbols — the mural and the flag — represent the start of what advocates hope will be broader change recognizing the dignity of Black Americans and the the need to continue fighting for racial equality.
“It's just love,” Bengals running back Trayveon Williams said at the flag-raising. “Love and courage, and it just shows me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it."
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Juneteenth, celebrated every year on June 19, marks the date that Union troops reached Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed all Texan slaves free in 1865.
The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two years earlier, but lingering conflicts and the remoteness of outlying states such as Texas allowed slavery to persist long afterward.
Cincinnati wasn’t the only city to mark the occasion — so did Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rochester, New York, and others.
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“Today is a day of celebration, but it’s also a day of determination,” said Woody Keown, president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Determination to do what? To live up to the message of Juneteenth, said flag-raising ceremony attendee Karen Durant Thomas.
“We're not free yet,” she said. “We still have police brutality. We still have unfair treatment on jobs. We have disparity in health.”
Later, she added: “It brought tears to my eyes to see the flag go up, because it’s important to us.”