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Metro Transit celebrates Juneteenth

Juneteenth is sometimes known as “America’s second Independence Day” as it commemorates the freedom of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War. African American communities across the county have observed this holiday for more than 150 years; it is now a federal holiday.  

The Metropolitan Council, of which Metro Transit is a part, this year declared Juneteenth a holiday for its employees, joining the City of Minneapolis and a host of local companies.  

Metro Transit teamed up with local illustrator Leeya Jackson to create depictions of local and national figures who have made the celebration of Juneteenth a holiday a reality.  

Illustration of Michael Chaney

Juneteenth Champion: Michael Chaney 

Activist, poet, co-founder of local Juneteenth celebration 

Michael Chaney is one of the founders of the Twin Cities Juneteenth Festival, initially the Northside Juneteenth celebration. He has a deep history in north Minneapolis, where he has started several businesses, including Project Sweetie Pie, which creates local, urban food gardens throughout the area.  

The initiative endeavors to redevelop and enhance communities throughout the area include investing in youth growth, creating training and job opportunities for young people through urban farming, and bringing people from all communities and cultures into one space to learn about one another.  

Illustration of Mahmoud El-Kati

Juneteenth Champion: Mahmoud El-Kati 

Local academic, writer, and Juneteenth historian 

Mahmoud El-Kati is a lecturer, writer, and commentator on the African American experience. He specializes in African American history and advocates institution building within cultural communities. 

He is Professor Emeritus of history at Macalester College., which established Macalester the Mahmoud El-Kati Distinguished Lectureship in American Studies in recognition of his scholarly and community work.  

He is a frequent commentator for local and national media. He is a columnist for Insight News, and a regular commentator for KFAI and KMOJ. He also moderates a monthly viewing and discussion on various Black classic films at the Fourth Fridays at the Movies in St. Paul. 

Illustration of Lee Jordan

Juneteenth Champion: Lee Jordan 

Activist, poet, co-founder of local Juneteenth celebrations 

Lee Henry Jordan is an accomplished local filmmaker. His Juneteenth involvement began in the 1980s attending events as a vendor with his casting company. That led to a connection with National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF), of which he is currently Midwest and State Director.  

NJOF includes hundreds of local organizations that have been instrumental in the passage of Juneteenth Independence Day legislation. NJOF advances the right of freedom through education, health, music, art, and technology creating opportunities for a better life for all.?  

Illustration of Nance Opal Lee

Juneteenth Champion: Opal Lee 

National activist, "Grandmother of Juneteenth" 

Ms. Opal Lee began Opal’s Walk 2 DC in 2016 at age 89. She started with the plan to walk the 1,400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas to the nation’s capitol in hopes of gaining support from Congress to officially name Juneteenth a national holiday. With the goal of 100,000 petition signatures, Ms. Opal set out on her mission and hasn’t stopped since. She has since reached over 1.5 million signatures. 

At 94 years old, Opal Lee was a key figure in making sure that Juneteenth was made a federal holiday; something that happened when President Biden officially designated it an American holiday on June 10, 2021. Influenced by being a board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, she understands the national relevance of celebrating freedom all across America, not just in Texas. 

Illustration of Nance Legins-Costley

Juneteenth Champion: Nance Legins-Costley 

Freed from slavery by then-attorney Abraham Lincoln 

Nance Legins-Costley (c. 1813–1892), was the first slave legally freed by attorney Abraham Lincoln, in 1841, 20 years before the start of the Civil War. Born in Illinois, she was ironically born a slave in a supposedly free territory. 

She managed to have her case appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court three times before Lincoln successfully argued for her freedom, using the same principle he later signed into law “… that Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist…” in the state of Illinois and later in the entire United States and its territories.