PASADENA — The city celebrated its first in-person Juneteenth celebration for the first time in two years Saturday, June 18, bringing together song, arts, speeches and food to commemorate the day in 1865 when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free – about 2-1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
The echo of that historic moment brought together city leaders and hundreds of attendees at Robinson Park, where live music, performances and speeches mixed with games, local vendors, a photo and health booths, arts and crafts.
It was the 14th-annual celebration for the city, which had promised a bigger event this year since the city’s Black History Month Parade was canceled.
Pasadena Councilmember John J. Kennedy said Juneteenth offers people the chance to recognize struggle and celebrate accomplishments.
“We owe the deepest debt of gratitude to all who have paved the way for us, so that we may benefit from countless career and education choices available to all of us,” he said.
Roland Bynum, a radio host on KJLH Radio, spoke to the crowd about taking Juneteenth seriously, and its roots in the enslavement of Black people.
“You got to look at really the whole situation of slavery in this country and what it did to our people,” Bynum said.
Considering it among the biggest honors of his presidency, President Joe Biden signed legislation last year marking Juneteenth as a federal holiday to be held on June 19. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the South in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.
Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived at Galveston on June 19, 1865, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. That was more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia.
Granger delivered General Order No. 3, which said: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
The next year, the now-free people started celebrating Juneteenth in Galveston. The holiday spread across the nation and internationally as Black Texans moved elsewhere. Its observance has continued around the nation and the world since,
Like Pasadena’s, events across the globe include concerts, parades and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Recognition of Juneteenth gained traction after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. President Joe Biden signed legislation that made the celebration a federal holiday in June 2021.
At least 24 states and the District of Columbia will legally recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday this year, according to the Pew Research Center.
At least six states officially adopted the holiday over the past few months, including Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, South Dakota, Utah and Washington. A bill introduced in California passed the Assembly and moved to the Senate this month.
The L.A. City Council approved a proclamation Friday, already signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, to officially make Juneteenth, a paid holiday for Los Angeles city employees. Carson also made Juneteenth an official government holiday earlier this year.
Good morning! I’m here at Robinson Park in Pasadena where the city is hosting its 14th annual Juneteenth celebration. The city is offering various activities and is starting off their event with some live music. @PasStarNews pic.twitter.com/jtIijUh1ga
— Saumya Gupta (@saumyaguptaa) June 18, 2022
Students and faculty raised the Juneteenth Flag at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena on Friday, kicking off a week of programs at the college to celebrate Juneteenth and educate people about the event’s historical importance.
The Pasadena celebration was among many hosted Saturday in the Los Angeles County region.
The Crenshaw Family YMCA held their second annual Juneteenth offering games, live performances, workshops, and hosting Black-owned food vendors. The LA County Public Library also hosted storyteller Binnie Tate Wilkin over Zoom to share their stories and folktales about Juneteenth.
Events across the region were planned throughout the weekend.
In Pasadena, after speeches were over, live music ramped up with the Victory Bible Church choir taking the stage, followed by other artists and bands.
During the live performances, people scattered across the event — some standing up out of their chairs — dancing and singing along with the songs.
As the event came to a close, almost 30 people gathered to line dance to various songs, like the Cupid Shuffle and Wobble.
Bringing the event to a close was a performance showcasing African rhythms through the use of traditional drums and dance.
Rita Turner, line dance instructor for the Jackie Robinson Community Center, said the event allowed everyone to come together and celebrate Black heritage, no matter what race and ethnicity they were.
“It has to do with everybody coming together to celebrate a freedom that once (we) did not know but now we know,” Turner said.
Dennis Robinson, one of the vendors at the event, said as a Robinson himself — his grandfather is Mack Robinson and great uncle is Jackie Robinson — being at the Robinson stadium and celebrating Juneteenth was important.
“Being able to be a Black man and to pay homage to our ancestors and celebrate them. That is important,” he said.
Alexis Hatcher said the event was a nice way to enjoy a Saturday and celebrate Blackness and the community itself.
Brenda Harvey-Williams, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services departments, said as an African American woman herself, Juneteenth signifies the official end of slavery and is meaningful in that recognizes Black individuals as people and not slaves.
She added that many people do not learn about Juneteenth in school and that there are many histories that people do not learn about.
“My hope and desire is that as a nation, we will all start to take an interest and learn about each other and celebrate each other,” Harvey-Williams said.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this article.
This content was originally published here.