Then 90 year-old Opal Lee’s mission was bring awareness to the efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday:
Because of the rain, Opal Lee took her Philadelphia walk underground.
The 90-year-old Texas native started out at the subway station on 15th Street near JFK Boulevard, then made her way down to the concourse by way of Suburban Station and later returned on the other side of City Hall, completing a full 2.5-mile trek.
Along the way, people gave her hugs, kissed her on the cheek and held on to cards describing her Juneteenth mission. Lee is walking to build support toward making Juneteenth a national holiday.
“Our young people are really not aware of the celebration and its significance,” Lee later said en route to the next state in which she’ll walk. “If you know that we weren’t free on the Fourth of July, we have an obligation to make Juneteenth a unifier.”
Pennsylvania makes the 11th state in which Lee has taken her walk since beginning in her hometown of Forth Worth, Texas, on Sept. 1. Since then, she has walked in such states as Colorado, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Virginia. Lee wants to conclude her effort in Washington, D.C., where she hopes to meet with President Barack Obama about issuing an executive order for the holiday.
“Can I not dream with the stroke of the pen that he can do that?” Lee said.
When Ronald Brown, president of the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Coalition, first received word from Lee’s family about her effort, he couldn’t believe at her age she was making such a walk.