Celebration Time-Come On! Juneteenth in Leimert Park this weekend

This Saturday will be the third weekend in the month of June so you know what that means right? Well yes. Sunday is Father's Day. But I'm talking specifically about the state holiday that takes place each year on the third Saturday in June ever since Governor Gray Davis signed into law Assembly Bill 1749 in 2002 and Senate Bill 812 in 2003. What? You need a hint? Okay..."They" say that on this day the appropriate thing to eat is barbeque and red soda water. Right! JUNETEENTH.

 In 1997 Congress passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as Juneteenth Independence Day in America. As of 2012 forty one states and the District of Columbia have officially passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth. As part of the Washington DC celebration members of congress host an annual Juneteenth reception. The modern day Juneteenth is celebrated across the nation and in other countries around the world. Currently there is a Juneteenth anniversary campaign n place, which is an initiative that began in 2005 and will culminate with the 150th Juneteenth anniversary in 2015.

 1994 is the year that the modern Juneteenth movement began. It begins with a gathering of Juneteenth leaders at a meeting in New Orleans which was convened by Rev. John Mosley, director of the New Orleans Juneteenth Freedom celebration. From this meeting several Juneteenth organizations are started. The National Association of Juneteenth Lineage, the National Juneteenth Celebration Association, the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Juneteenth America Foundation and Juneteenth America, Inc. The last two were actually started before the meeting. Would you be surprised to learn that there is a Juneteenth Convention & Expo as well as a Juneteenth Flag?

 Here in California, John Thompson who resides in Pomona is the founder of Juneteenth America. They are host to an annual Juneteenth celebration in Pomona at Ganesha Park. In Ganesha Park is the first monument which honors Juneteenth. Juneteenth America, Inc. worked very hard for California to become one of the states in which Juneteenth would be recognized as a state holiday.

 Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration that commemorates the end of slavery. It is known by different names throughout the United States such as Emancipation Day, Emancipation Celebration, Freedom Day, Jun-Jun and of course Juneteenth.

 Our history books tell us that on June 19, 1865 one General Gordon Granger & his troop of Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas. He shared with the slaves at one plantation the news that the war had ended and that all slaves were free. He then read to them General Order #3. Out of everything, the most important part 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 rights and rights of property between former masters of slaves and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that of employer and free laborer.”

 Can you imagine the range of emotions that went on that day? Happiness, surprise, shock, disbelief and fear. Dancing, singing and feasting. Some slaves stayed and others went in search of family members in the neighboring states and all had to deal with the reality and challenges of establishing a new status place in America for African Americans. It is no small wonder then that remembering and sharing the memories of that day with each other and their descendants would become a tradition.

 Of course there is the question of why it took two years after the Jan. 1863 emancipation date before the Texas slaves would be notified. Through the years there have been several theories such as [1]the messenger was murdered on the way to Texas or [2]the news was withheld on purpose to keep the labor force or[3] the federal troops decided to wait so the slave masters could have one last good cotton harvest.

  Never-the-less the Juneteenth Celebration spread from Texas to Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and later Alabama, Florida and California as Texans migrated. The celebration could be a rodeo or fishing or a barbeque or baseball game, or family reunion or a cook out. But whatever the activity as is most cultural events there was a focus on education and self improvement. Often time prayer services were also included. The length of the celebration varied from a day or a week to a month. In its earliest days there was little interest in Juneteenth outside of the African American  community other than for barring use of public property so some African Americans became land owners and donated the land to be used for Juneteenth. Examples include Emancipation Park in Houston, Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia, and Emancipation Park in Austin.

 You already know that food is an important part of cultural celebrations. In the case of Juneteenth the food helped to share in the spirit and aromas that the newly freed slaves would have experienced: strawberry soda pop, barbeque with meat such as lamb, pork, beef which weren’t available to the slaves every day.

 During the early 1900’s there weren’t as many Juneteenth celebrations mostly because of economics and of course African Americans stop passing along their history and Black History is not recorded in  text books so the story of emancipation for African Americans is not told. The celebration begins again during the Civil Rights movements of the 50’s and 60’s. In 1968 after the Poor People’s March to D.C. several participants return to their states and begin Juneteenth celebrations leading to the largest being held in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Jan 1, 1980 marks the date that Juneteenth becomes an official state holiday in Texas. [Al Edwards]

 This weekend there will be celebrations in Leimert Park Village, Pasadena and Pomona to name a few. Celebration time, come on!!!





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