San Francisco and the SFMTA Celebrate Juneteenth

Share this:
Friday, June 14, 2024

People standing in the street in front of a motorized cable car.

SFMTA staff and Board members gather just before the start of the 2024 San Francisco Juneteenth Parade.

It’s time to celebrate freedom and Juneteenth! The Juneteenth holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. And we’re marking the occasion at the SFMTA. 

The history of Juneteenth

Juneteenth is shorthand for June 19.

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed the slaves there that they were free. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier. But it took that long for the abolition of slavery to make it to Texas. And freedom still wasn’t immediate for everyone. Slavery wasn’t formally abolished in the United States until December 1865 when the 13th Amendment passed.

The first “Jubilee Day” commemorating the end of slavery in Texas was held on June 19, 1866. After more than a century of annual celebrations, Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday in 1979. It became a federal holiday in 2021. 

Juneteenth also became an official San Francisco holiday in 2021. Many city offices are closed on June 19, and Muni runs on a weekend schedule.

Juneteenth and the SFMTA

Juneteenth is a time to celebrate culture, resilience, freedom and joy, particularly for Black Americans. With homemade pom poms in hand, dozens of agency staffers and their families took part in the San Francisco Juneteenth Parade on June 8. Plus, Mayor London Breed rode with us in a motorized cable car. 

Here’s what we’re saying about Juneteenth:

Domenica Henderson, member of the SFMTA Board of Directors. “The symbolism of Juneteenth as a day of remembrance and freedom is important given that liberty is a core principle of this nation. For me, it also represents the beginning of summer in San Francisco. I was always so excited to have fun with friends at the Juneteenth festival in the Fillmore after school let out for the year.”

Utuma Belfrey, SFMTA assistant powerhouse operator. “Participating in the Juneteenth parade creates a legacy for my children and grandchildren. It's also a way we can hold onto our heritage. I'm honored to be a descendent of slaves and will continue to pass the tradition down.”

Jodie Boyd, Muni operator. “Juneteenth means freedom.”

San Francisco celebrations 

A group of people walking and riding a vehicle down a street

Mayor London Breed in the 2024 San Francisco Juneteenth Parade.

The City of San Francisco Juneteenth Parade made its way down Market Street for the first time last year. But while the citywide parade and festival may be relatively new, commemorating the holiday isn’t. 

Juneteenth celebrations in San Francisco date back to at least 1945. That year, Wesley Johnson Sr. rode a white horse through the Fillmore on June 19. Johnson was a Black entrepreneur from Texas who owned a jazz club on Fillmore Street when the area was known as the Harlem of the West. 

A number of celebrations are happening this weekend, including: 

  • Mayor Breed’s Juneteenth Kickoff at City Hall
  • The SF Black Wall Street Juneteenth Foundation Gala 

There also are events throughout the month at the Bayview Opera House. Plus, the city encourages people to shop and dine at Black-owned businesses and support Black artists. 

You can earn more about Juneteenth in San Francisco and find a detailed list of events at the city’s 1865 ‘til Infinity webpage.

The colors of Juneteenth 

The words “Celebrating Juneteenth 2024” in white against a red, yellow, green and black background

Photo credit: SFMTA Marketing

Red, black, green and yellow are embraced as the colors of Juneteenth. These are also the colors of Black History Month and have symbolic meaning: 

  • Red for blood that has been shed in the struggle for freedom
  • Black for Black people and the strength of the Black community
  • Green for the natural fertility of African land 
  • Yellow for optimism, justice and equality

A red, white and blue Juneteenth flag was created in 1997. It features a lone star in the center with a burst outline around it. However, you are likely to see the red, black and green Pan African flag at Juneteenth celebrations. 

Juneteenth represents the end of one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history. We will always remember that history and honor the continued strength of Black Americans in San Francisco and all over the country.