Milwaukee marked its 53rd Annual Juneteenth Celebration with the unveiling of Milwaukee County’s first-ever Juneteenth bus on June 18, a day after City of Milwaukee officials raised the Juneteenth flag above the City Hall complex on June 17, continuing municipal traditions to honor historic Juneteenth Day celebrations.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) unveiled its Juneteenth bus during a press conference at the MCTS Fleet Facility on June 18. The bus, designed by two talented students from TRUE Skool, marked the County’s 53rd Annual Juneteenth Celebration. It was part of a broader series of events honoring the holiday day across Milwaukee County.

“I am proud to share this transit asset on our roads as a reflection of the County’s commitment to celebrating Juneteenth and advancing our mission to achieve racial equity,” said County Executive David Crowley. “The bus is a powerful symbol of our commitment to honoring the legacy of Juneteenth and fostering a sense of community and pride among our residents. It is a moving tribute to the resilience and creativity that defines Milwaukee County.”

County Executive Crowley was joined by County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor of District 5, MCTS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager Kevina Vann, TRUE Skool Co-Director Fidel Verdin, and the student artists Adjua Nsoroma and Alex Solis who created the bus design.

“This bus is more than just a mode of transportation. It is a rolling testament to the strength and unity of our community. It represents our ongoing journey towards equality and justice for all,” said County Supervisor Taylor.

The Juneteenth bus is set to travel the streets of Milwaukee County for one year, beginning its service at the Juneteenth Parade on June 19. The initiative underscores the cultural significance of Juneteenth, celebrating the spirit of freedom, creativity, and community that is deeply embedded in Milwaukee’s heritage.

MCTS has proudly sponsored the Juneteenth Parade since 2004, reinforcing its commitment to promoting cultural awareness and community solidarity.

Milwaukee is renowned for hosting one of the oldest and longest-running Juneteenth Day celebrations in the nation. To commemorate this year’s festivities, City of Milwaukee officials gathered to raise the Juneteenth flag above the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building across from City Hall downtown.

The tradition, which began in 2020, involved flying the special flag over city property during the week of Juneteenth. Mayor Cavalier Johnson led a short ceremony that marked the flag-raising on June 17, adding to the city’s robust celebration of this pivotal holiday. He was joined by Alderwoman Sharlen P. Moore, Alderwoman Andrea M. Pratt, Alderwoman Larresa Taylor, and Alderman DiAndre Jackson.

The Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities for more than one-and-a-half centuries. It marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Since it was designated a federal holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has become more universally recognized beyond Black America. Many people get the day off work or school, and there are a plethora of street festivals, fairs, concerts, and other events.

Juneteenth has also been known by other names over the decades, including Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Black Fourth of July, and Second Independence Day. This was because the freedom celebrated on July 4, 1776, did not include Black ancestors, as Black people in America were still enslaved.

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Lee Matz