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ROC Juneteenth 5k Continues to Highlight Historical Day

By Tyronda James

ROC Juneteenth 5k race director, Gloria Johnson-Hovey. Photo from the ROC Juneteenth Celebration 5K Run/Walk Facebook page.

Gloria Johnson-Hovey began her 5K run/walk event in 2017 here in the City of Rochester to honor an historic date that despite its importance, has been “unnoticed, unstudied, and unrecognized,” she said.

Juneteenth is a celebration that commemorates the June 19, 1865 emancipation of slavery, when the last of the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were told they were free. Major General Gordon Granger, born in Sodus, NY, rode into Galveston, announcing the ending of the Civil War and freedom.

Johnson-Hovey, ROC Juneteenth 5k race director said she hopes that someday June 19 will be as widely celebrated as the Fourth of July, “with fireworks and people buying goods at Juneteenth sales and with Juneteenth flags widely available.”

Last year on June 17, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation designating Juneteenth as an official public holiday.

This year, ROC Juneteenth 5k will be both live and virtual. Registration is open now through June 19. Participants for the virtual event can register between now and midnight on June 19, the virtual run/walk cost is $10. Those choosing to run or walk in-person race; the in-person run/walk cost is $25 ($30 the day of the event). The event will be held at 1 p.m. in Genesee Valley Park, Rochester, NY.


The registration funds will go toward the future Rochester Civil Rights Heritage Site at Baden Park, a project led by the Spiritus Christi Anti-Racism Coalition (SPARC) and supported by the First Universalist Initiative for Racial Equity (FIRE), the First Unitarian Church, the City of Rochester and various local philanthropists.

Since its start, the event has drawn nearly 700 participants from across the United States and from Europe last year as a virtual event and continues to highlight what many say is the most significant yet under-celebrated dates in the battle for Civil Rights.

Flyer for 5th Annual ROC Juneteenth 5K Run/Walk!

Every year ROC Juneteenth honors a Civil Rights activist, this year’s event will honor Claudette Colvin, whose teenage act of bravery until recent years, received little recognition. On March 2, 1955, Colvin rode a Montgomery, Alabama bus, when she was asked to give up her seat to a white woman.  Interestingly, Colvin’s civil right resistance on the bus occurred nine months before Rosa Parks, who gained widespread recognition.

A commemorative poster honoring Colvin was created by local artist Amber Stokes, that all participants at the event’s ending. A framed copy of the poster will be sent to Colvin, now 81, who currently resides in her home city of Montgomery, Alabama.

Two years ago, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren proclaimed that the date would be honored by the 5K race begun by Johnson-Hovey. She said that the day would be one to “celebrate and remember.”  The mayor’s proclamation asked “all residents to be transported back to that moment of jubilation on June 19, 1865, when the slaves learned they were ‘free at last’ – from a horrific bondage that ensnarled them and their ancestors for more than four centuries.  Vicariously experiencing this emotional moment in time, speaks fully of the Juneteenth story.” 

City Hall has raised the Juneteenth flag in a ceremony each year since Juneteenth 2019, making the same declaration.

Johnson-Hovey said she hopes that all cities and towns in NYS will begin to celebrate and honor Juneteenth. “We request that all municipalities do nothing less than she has done for the City of Rochester, the home of Frederick Douglass.”

Find registration and further information at