Our free and inclusive Juneteenth Ride this coming Monday, June 17th, is named after the festival commemorating the June 19th, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery to the people of Galveston, Texas, considered the last part of the United States to receive the news.

Now in its 44th year, Buffalo’s annual Juneteenth celebration that’s centered on MLK Park this weekend is credited as the third-largest in the country, and we’re honored to connect our annual East Parade block party ride (East Parade Avenue on the eastern edge of MLK Park, 6:30pm sharp start) with the festival, including stops on the street named after founding force William Gaiter as well as the Juneteenth headquarters at Genesee and Moselle Streets. First, we ride in Saturday’s parade along with East Side Bike Club and Reddy Bikeshare and hold down GObike Buffalo’s tent in MLK Park both Saturday and Sunday.

Learn more below about Juneteenth in Buffalo from longtime volunteer and new board member Dayatra Hassan, who spoke while setting up festivities in MLK Park.

What are you most excited about for this year’s Juneteenth Festival?

One of the new and exciting things this year is our agricultural pavilion with a wonderful organization called the Food Equity Network, which is a bunch of different organizations concerned about food and growing and land and connection to land; there are a lot of activities around that, I’m super excited.

Two other things are a community art project, in which everybody who comes to Juneteenth has opportunity to be part of this art project, and the Griot Village shuttle service and comfort tent that we have for our senior citizens. We need to encourage that intergenerational dialogue, to keep the young people and our elders in dialogue, so we’re facilitating that with the Griot Village. We also have them engaged in storytelling, with young people eliciting stories from their elders, to get their own family history as we study our collective history, encouraging relationships and that passage of information.

What are your personal highlights of Juneteenth?

My personal highlight of Juneteenth is seeing folks come together – I wish it could be Juneteenth every day! I wish we had this level of communication and cooperation all the time – that’s the most beautiful thing about Juneteenth. And to that point, the Juneteenth Festival is also a not-for-profit organization that’s active 365 – we have a building and programs, and we’re building on those things.

What are the greatest challenges in organizing the festival?

One of the greatest challenges in organizing is just communicating with lots of people, just keeping up with everybody – there are so many moving parts, hundreds of volunteers, over 30 committees with chairs and their teams.

What are you favorite parts of Juneteenth that few people know about?

Few people know about the few people who do the most work – the blood, sweat and tears. Our elders set up a beautiful festival for us – this is our 44th consecutive festival, and being on the inside now, not just as a patron but doing the work, most people do not realize the hard work and dedication that goes into maintaining and improving on the festival every year.

How can community members get involved?

Community members can get involved always by stopping by the building itself at 1517 Genesee at the corner of Moselle from 10am-2pm most weekdays, where we have historical artifacts and info and there’s always programming being scheduled there.

One of those things is a community book reading, currently Dr. Martin Luther King’s final work, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” We’re doing that as a community. The next meeting for that is the 24th of June inside the building. Come out, check the Challenger, check our Facebook page for activities, because we always got something happening, always trying to help people in the community if they have something happening to use the building as well.