That’s because a section of 52nd Street was renamed Muhammad Ali Way after the parade came through. Ali’s daughter and grandson attended the renaming ceremony, which brought the area’s City Council representative, Jannie Blackwell, Councilman-at-large David Oh, and Mayor Jim Kenney to the stage.
Many in the Juneteenth crowd were thrilled to see 52nd Street named after Ali.
Robert Rudd, who lives at 58th Street and Baltimore Avenue, was selling Ali memorabilia — posters from some of his great moments.
“Muhammad Ali was one of my great heroes,” Rudd said. “He did a lot for the civil rights struggle, plus resisting in the Vietnam era. I think kids should know that.”
David Harris grew up in West Philly but now lives in Blue Bell, Montgomery County. This was his first Juneteenth parade, and he said he was glad to see it in his old neighborhood, rather than in Center City.
For Harris, Juneteenth is about thinking more about his African-American heritage and history.
“[Juneteenth] is one of those holidays that we can claim as our own, unlike maybe the Fourth of July,” Harris said. “Some people will say, `Well, some of us were still enslaved at that point.’ I think it’s a great thing.”
Relocating the Junenteenth celebration to West Philadelphia also made some local business owners hopeful.
Rashid Abdul Samad is a co-owner of the African Cultural Art Forum, a business at 52nd and Walnut that sells products such as home decor and jewelry manufactured in Africa. They’re celebrating 50 years in business this year and hope Juneteenth will bring an economic boost to the neighborhood.
“We need anything we can get on 52nd Street. Anything positive,” Samad said. “I think [Juneteenth] is a great atmosphere, for the children and everybody.”
“What was going on downtown was only supporting downtown,” Samad added. “Now that we are here, it can only grow and get better each year.”
The Juneteenth festival brought things to a close Saturday night with a performance by Philly-based R&B soul duo Kindred the Family Soul.
Ericalynn Cotton said she hopes to see Juneteenth stay in West Philly as the celebration grows each year.
“I think it’s awesome because you get the locals, you get the people who actually live here who are from here, and it’s predominantly black,” Cotton said. “It’s just an opportunity to be around people who like me, feel like me, and all of these lovely black people.”