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Juneteenth Festival still on in Buffalo... but virtually

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The 45th Juneteenth Festival will still take place in Buffalo, but amid a pandemic the African American celebration will be carried out online.

Mayor Byron Brown and festival organizers, all donning masks, raised the African Liberation Flag in Niagara Square during the noon hour. Later in the evening, lights atop City Hall will be arranged to portray the flag's colors, red, black and green.

But for the rest of the festivities, you'll have to go online. Several programs and celebrations will be posted on Juneteenth's official website. But organizers will also be utilizing a network of social media platforms.

"We've got our YouTube page. We've got our Facebook page. We've got our Instagram page, all of those link to each other," said Dayatra Hassan, who is a member of the Juneteenth Festival board. "We'll still be drumming and dancing. We'll still be doing education. We'll still be doing our agricultural activities, and garden share videos. The beauty of it being online is we'll be doing Juneteenth all month long."

Hassan and other organizers noted the timing of the arrival of Juneteenth, following days of unrest across the country following the death of African American citizen George Floyd by a police officer who has since been fired and charged with third-degree murder.

"I think now, more than ever, we need Juneteenth," she said. "We need it virtually. We need it to get back together, eventually. Hopefully we won't be distancing too much longer. Since we can't physically come together, it's super important that we come together through whatever means that we have to. If it's online, it's online. If it's on the phone, then it's on the phone. But we have to connect and share."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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