WACO, Texas (FOX 44) — Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday last year by President Biden. With last year’s celebrations dialed back some due to COVID-19, organizations are excited for this weekend.
Kicking off tomorrow will be the Mr. and Mrs. Juneteenth scholarship pageant on the Baylor campus.
Saturday, the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Juneteenth parade in Heritage Park at 10 AM.
Later in the day at 2 PM, there will be the tenth annual Juneteenth Family Day with activities, local vendors, and musical guests.
“It is a part of our country’s history, that is so important to our understanding of what our country is about,” NAACP Waco President Dr. Peaches Henry said.
Dr. Henry says this is like a second Independence Day for the United States.
Juneteenth is the celebration of June 19, 1865, when African Americans in Texas received word they were no longer slaves and were free to marry, work, and own property.
It was declared a national holiday in 2021 by President Biden but Dr. Henry says it’s so much more than just another day off.
“We now have people who were not included in the declaration of independence, who were now included, and that news had finally reached Texas,” she said. “And so it is a part of our culture that every citizen should celebrate. It represents the fact that our country can improve.”
Dr. Sanfrena Britt, the Chief Diversity Officer of Texas A & M University-Central Texas, explained what Juneteenth meant to African Americans in the 1800s, stating:
“They were simply freed people and would need to find employment or hope their former slave masters would allow them to stay and pay them. They had no concept of fair wages, but they were turned out to compete with others for employment with nothing but their knowledge for working on plantations or for wealthy families. So was this declaration the source of the jubilee they felt?”
“The celebration was the result of being free to marry, to have to say over their own bodies, and now to own property instead of being owned as property,” she wrote to FOX 44 News.
Dr. Henry ended by saying this holiday is not just for African Americans but for all citizens of the United States and it is a day to feel joy.
“It represents the fact that our country can improve, celebrate the humanity of every individual person,” she said. “And I think that that is the joy that Juneteenth brings. And it is also a level of pride in our country.”