On June 18, the South Pearl Street corridor will be flooded with people coming together for the Juneteenth Freedom Festival.  

“Last year when it was the first official federal holiday we had roughly 6,000 people come out throughout the day,” said Travon Jackson, executive director of the African American Cultural Center.

And this year that number is expected to double. This is the second year that the holiday is recognized nationally. But community members have celebrated Juneteenth in Albany for the past 19 years.

“We follow in the tradition of the festival which were free people dancing in celebration of culture and food as they reimagined it in this space that they were forced to inhabit,” said Jackson.

Jackson has been planning the freedom festival since December and is excited to finally see it all come together.

“On that day when you come to that street in this neighborhood we created a free space for you to roam and be welcome and considered as equal,” said Jackson.

Music, food and games will all be featured at the annual event to celebrate Black culture and community. But Jackson says it’s also a day of confronting social issues and standing together against hate.

“As I meditate on the tragedy and modern lyncching that happened in Buffalo, we understand that our efforts to build a grocery store are near the same distance and approximate the same characteristics of the target to that hate crime. So this year, specifically, with the federal holiday being recognized but our people still being hunted. We resonate on safety and love,” said Jackson.

By bringing together people from the community, Jackson hopes that this day will amplify peace and hope.

“This is the gallery in my house, it's not very big but it's some of my favorite pieces,” said Liana'kim Sepulveda.

Sepulveda is one of the many artists attending the festival. She began showcasing her work in 2017 and has returned every year since.

“Everybody that knows Juneteenth knows it's the biggest event of the year and it's the most stressful moment of our lives of the year but they were like just do it. And from there my confidence has built up,” said Sepulveda.

But this time around she’s doing something a little different, she will be performing spoken word from her poetry book, Growing Pains.