D.C.'s annual Emancipation Day was celebrated for the first time in-person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Nick Pasion

The District commemorated the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Act, during a day-long celebration last Saturday that stoked calls for D.C. statehood. 

The annual event’s first in-person celebration in two years included a parade, speeches from D.C. advocates and leaders, musical performances and wrapped up with a fireworks show. 

Anise Jenkins (right) and Joyce Robinson (center) said they were marching in the parade and at the celebration to advocate for D.C. statehood. D.C.’s annual Emancipation Day was celebrated for the first time in-person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Nick Pasion

“In D.C., the vast majority of people who are homeless, who are incarcerated, who are in poverty, who are unemployed are Black people,” Mayoral candidate and councilmember Robert White said in an interview with Street Sense Media at the celebration. “And I think we have to separate freedom from equality and our challenge 160 years ago was freedom. Our challenge now is equality.”

“As someone whose family has been here since slavery, I have to imagine what [Emancipation Day] meant as a sign for our country,” D.C. Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Robert White said in an interview with Street Sense Media. Photo by Nick Pasion

Some of the day’s biggest events included musical performances from popular artists like Cee Lo Green, Junk Yard Band, Crystal Waters and Slick Rick the Ruler, who took the stage to a crowd of more than 200 people who danced, sang, and talked throughout the afternoon. 

Food trucks like District Small Bites, Latimore’s Funnel Cakes and Himalayan Soul Food parked around Freedom Plaza to cater the event. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser said the celebration marks the reopening of the city after the COVID-19 pandemic. District officials dropped the mask mandate last month and have reopened indoor activities across the city, as COVID-19 cases spiked around the region. 

“I want you to come out and celebrate our city because DC is open,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at the event. “You can come to our festivals, theatres, the Wharf, the Anacostia park, you name it, it’s time to enjoy your city.” Photo by Nick Pasion

“We are so grateful to you for all of your support for sticking in there over the last two years. and doing everything we asked included getting tested, vaccinated, and boosted,” she said. 

“I’m here to celebrate with my city,” Denise Jackson, 63, a lifelong District resident said in an interview with Street Sense Media. Photo by Nick Pasion