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commUNITY spotlight: Actor Alphonso Walker Jr. remembers celebrating Juneteenth in Buffalo

Actor Alphonso Walker Jr. has not forgotten a hometown staple.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Juneteenth was part of growing up for actor Alphonso Walker Jr. The 31-year-old was born and raised in Buffalo

“Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom of cultural identity,” Walker said. "Juneteenth is where growing up in the city, we would all come together. We all sit at the corner of the streets and sit in lawn chairs, I remember when my grandmother and my dad and my mom and my cousins and we watched the parade go by." 

Walker is McKinley High School and Daemen University graduate. He received his breakthrough role on "The Equalizer" with Queen Latifah. He has since made appearances on hit crime shows such as "Blue Bloods," "Law & Order," and "East New York." 

After graduating from college, Walker moved to New York City in hopes of furthering his acting career. While he has been able to support his acting aspirations there, it was not until leaving his hometown that he realized the uniqueness of Buffalo's long-standing dedication to Juneteenth. 

"I didn't realize how formative Juneteenth was at home," Walker said. "There were so many people when I moved to New York City who didn't celebrate it. It wasn't until, like, maybe the last two or three years after George Floyd is when people started to pay attention to Juneteenth."

This year the city of Buffalo will host its 48th annual Juneteenth festival, having celebrated the holiday since 1976. This makes it one of a few American cities that has remained committed to the commemoration for decades. Walker believes it is important the city maintain this tradition. 

“I think being exposed to it as a kid, it wasn't until probably right now, until this moment of being an adult that I realized how powerful and how necessary it is,” Walker said. “And I'm so grateful that my city, Buffalo has exposed me to that.

"It's normal for us to go to the parade. It's normal for us to sit outside, watch them go by, and do our thing, to be outside dancing and singing and listening to music. That's not here in New York City, my hometown taught me that — 716 — and I'm very grateful for that.”

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