Saturday marked the first Juneteenth celebrated as a federal holiday. It was also the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Junior day was established in the 1980's.
“Our ancestors are in heaven smiling. They didn’t get to see this day, but they paved the way for us,” event organizer of the Second Annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival, Xenia King said.
Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday Thursday, when President Joe Biden signed into law that recognition of the day slaves in Texas were first notified of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. NAACP event coordinator, Bianca Haynes emphasized the significance of the day that slavery truly ended across the country.
“This holiday commemorates the day they found out. Very unfortunate, can you imagine, still being enslaved illegally and everyone has been free years prior? It’s so devastating when you think about it, and the fact that we can still celebrate that we we're released from that is a beautiful thing,” Haynes said.
The 6th Annual Juneteenth Celebration hosted by NAACP, Haynes said, marks these celebrations with about 60 vendors and a couple thousand people in attendance at Yokuts Park. The event was filled with music, food and raffles. This form of celebration, Haynes said is reminiscent of their ancestors.
“Amidst all of the turmoil and slavery, and all of the things we had to deal with being oppressed here in America, we still found a way to celebrate ourselves, celebrate our culture and history, and this is how we do it,” Haynes said.
Just a mile away, the 2nd Juneteenth Heritage Festival held at Beach Park with 25 vendors, marked the holiday’s 155 year old history. King said that gatherings like the one Saturday, over food like black-eyed peas, watermelon, cabbage and fried fish, music and conversation was not just a form of celebration, but also paying homage to the past.
“A long time ago during slavery, this is how people got to ease some of the pain and some of the hardship they had gone through back then. So today, freely may I say, we get to share these foods and share our lives,” King said.