Many of the couple hundred people gathered at Rondo Commemorative Plaza for the community's third annual Juneteenth celebration nodded in agreement when St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter talked about how some wish Black people would stop bringing up the past.

Stop talking about slavery, Carter said he's heard people say. Stop talking about Jim Crow. About how communities from St. Paul to Miami were uprooted by freeways — such as I-94 one block to the north.

"But don't you know? You can't drive forward without a rearview mirror," he said to applause. "You can't build a stronger, better, more inclusive future without understanding where we've come from."

On a day when the city of St. Paul, the state of Minnesota and the federal government all recognize Juneteenth — the day Black people in Texas were told two years after the Emancipation Proclamation that they were no longer slaves — speaker after speaker sounded the same theme: Don't hide history.

Fight those working to obscure the painful parts of history in the name of "getting over it," said Marvin Dunn Jr. The professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University, who experienced Jim Crow restrictions in his youth, said that recognizing the hurtful policies and actions of the past and coming to grips with the harm they caused is how to avoid repeating them.

"I hear 'Get over it' all the time," said Dunn, Monday's keynote speaker. "For those folks who say, 'It's been 100 years, get over it,' we will get over it — eventually. But that's not going to happen until Black people and white people get together and realize those things are obstructions and something should be done about them so we can carry forward."

Several of the speakers, from U.S. Sen. Tina Smith to U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum to Gov. Tim Walz agreed that the past should not be brushed over. But, they said, true equity cannot happen unless people are willing to grapple with where society still falls short — from continuing racism to the lack of economic opportunity.

Growing up, Walz said, "You never heard about Juneteenth, let alone [the massacre in] Tulsa. You did not hear these stories."

In Minnesota, he said, "we're willing to tell our whole history. Our children need to know" about Rosa Parks and John Lewis and that we continue to outlaw discrimination.

He alluded to references of the Minnesota Miracle of 1973, praising efforts here to boost education funding.

"And we made a difference," Walz said. "But here's the unknown story to that, too, and we need to be willing to tell this story: We left a whole lot of people behind. There aren't a whole lot of Black folk pining for 1973 again."

Gaps in education, health outcomes and home ownership show much remains to be done, he said.

Juneteenth is a history lesson, but it also is a chance for optimism — provided people use its lessons as motivation to do better, Walz said.

On that point, Dunn agreed. Alarmed at what is currently happening in his home state of Florida, Dunn said he came north to warn people here not to fall in with the push to diminish or erase the bad parts of history.

"Not recognizing racism and the impact of racism means it's unimportant to the nation," Dunn said. "I'm inspired by what I am seeing here. You know what the difference is? Leadership."