As the Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade rumbled by her along 52nd Street on Sunday morning, Ashley Taylor eyed her sons, ages 7 and 2, as they watched while sitting on the curb.

“This is important for them,” said Taylor, 35, a human resources specialist from West Philadelphia. “This means something.”

But, she said, she couldn’t think of the right word to describe the lesson being imparted to her boys. “Is it heritage?” she asked out loud. “Is it history?”

Then her face brightened as the answer came: “It’s Blackness!” she said. “It’s how we value our Blackness. It’s who we are.”

As Taylor beamed, the Juneteenth parade continued on under an impossibly blue sky, likely offering similar inspiration and meaning to countless others along the nearly two-mile route through West Philadelphia.

“I love a parade!” shouted parade grand marshal Sheryl Lee Ralph, star of the ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary, set in Philadelphia. Referencing her glistening silver jumpsuit, Ralph said, “And I am shining today for freedom and liberation for the end of slavery in America.”

The parade included drill teams and a drum corps, a float honoring Harriet Tubman, and another recognizing historically Black colleges and universities.

The atmosphere had a small-town feel, as people watching the parade would recognize friends marching and run out to greet them with hugs and laughter.

The event, which had been suspended at the start of the pandemic, was first held in 2016. It’s produced by the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Initiative, a group that has worked for years to help make June 19 — the date when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 and gave word to enslaved African Americans that they were free — a national holiday.

“This parade’s important because children don’t get taught enough true Black history in our schools,” said spectator Carl Washington, a 66-year-old hospitality worker from South Philadelphia.

“Things like this make sure that history is known and appreciated.”

In a revelatory moment, Clifford James, 81, a former tractor-trailer driver from West Philadelphia, shook his head in a kind of wonderment. He hadn’t known there’d be a parade but was happy to interrupt his shopping trip to watch the goings-on from a sidewalk.

“Juneteenth is really something new to me,” James said. “In almost all of my life, people would never talk about this, or celebrate it.

“But it’s good. We need this. We need a whole lot of getting together and showing we can unite.”

The parade concluded in the early afternoon at a daylong festival including music, art, and food held at Malcolm X Park at 52nd and Pine Streets. That it coincided with Father’s Day seemed to make the celebration more special for participants and spectators, many of whom shouted, “Happy Father’s Day,” to men who happened by.

A Children’s Village featuring a carnival, games, face painting, and photo booths was set up nearby. Performances by the Lady of Rage and appearances by Radio One Philadelphia personalities Lady B and DJ TouchTone were also scheduled.

The park was filled with hundreds of people checking out tents set up by local businesses, art dealers, food purveyors, and nonprofits.

That created an interesting jumble of eye-catching items in haphazard juxtaposition: funnel cakes next to a rack of “Black Girls Rock” earrings next to a spot offering free pain relief.

Tyneisha Bey, 45, a Delaware state worker from Wilmington, was on hand to watch her daughter from the Dance4Life troupe perform.

She laughed explaining that a few people she works with were happy to be told Juneteenth was a new holiday, but didn’t understand what the day was for.

“It was a great opportunity for me to tell them it’s about the end of slavery,” Bey said. “And now they know.”

As the day wore on and the crowds swelled, Deneisha Cook, 25, who works for Gentle Gratitude Philly, had a hard time preventing the clothing on her table from blowing away in a suddenly swift wind.

To honor men for Father’s Day, the nonprofit was giving away T-shirts. The organization, with offices in Southwest and North Philadelphia, holds book drives and coat drives for people in need.

Asked what Juneteenth means to her, Cook said: “This is the freedom day for African Americans. This holiday isn’t fully understood yet. But people are starting to celebrate it more.

“People still have a lot to learn about Juneteenth. But this is a good start.”