By Jasmine Payoute

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thousands of people came out to honor Juneteenth Sunday — the day set aside to commemorate the emancipation of the enslaved Black Americans in 1865. Philadelphia has one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country.

It was a celebration of life on 52nd Street. 

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“It’s good, and it’s about how you get your identity and also celebrate,” a man said. 

Philadelphians came out in droves to commemorate Juneteenth – also known as Freedom Day.

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“We are at the point now where we can begin to understand the importance of being able to celebrate our own holidays,” Helen Salahuddin said. 

Salahuddin is with the Pennsylvania Juneteenth initiative. The group is behind the parade turned festival that honors the day slaves in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom.

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“We start at Jefferson and come all the way down and we end up in Malcolm X Park,” Salahuddin said. “It brings back commerce to our community and helps to lift up a street,  52nd street, that has been renowned in Black history in Philadelphia.”

The festival helped showcase food vendors, art exhibits, COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites and Black businesses.

“It’s just a wonderful experience, just even watching the parade, you know the performances, you know the music, just seeing our people just come together it’s just a beautiful experience,” Tynisha Kale said. “I’ve never seen nothing like it before”

And while Juneteenth has grown in popularity, many say there’s still progress to be made.

“There’s always work to be done,” Salahuddin.

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The festival started in 2016 but has grown since then.  

Jasmine Payoute