A group of local citizens, diverse in race, religion and thought, gathered at the Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday at the Weber Point Events Center, commemorating the holiday that recognizes the end of slavery in America.
While the holiday has special meaning to the African American community, guests of all ethnicities and ages were welcomed to come and participate at this event and tell their stories.
As guests entered the event center, the sound of children playing in the water, warm greetings, and Gospel music filled their ears. The smell of food and desserts hugged their noses. African attire, painted canvases, and various vendors had caught their eyes.
Among those at the festivities was Gloria Johnson, secretary of the Stockton Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which hosted the event. She has been a part of the NAACP since she was 17 years old. She was a Civil Rights activist in New Orleans, and was one of the first African Americans to ride the bus in the city after the screens were taken off.
Juneteenth was important to her because she was a part of the history that fought for the freedom that African Americans have today, she said.
“We had to stand firm, we had to dress neatly and be polite at all times no matter what they say to us by calling us those wonderful names,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t frown, we couldn’t say anything. We stood our ground, we stood up while they sprayed water on us, we stood up while the dogs were barking, but at the end of this, we did it all without violence and under the leadership of Jesse Jackson with the Congress of Racial Equality.”
Passing out microwavable popcorn, Terrance Saffold, Pastor of Greater Maranatha Church greeted each person with a big smile and reminded them how blessed they were.
Saffold was truly grateful to come out to support Juneteenth as a free black man with his brothers and sisters in Christ.
“I grew up in Stockton back in the 60s when black folks couldn’t buy a house past Harding Way. To see where we are at; now we can live anywhere we want in the City of Stockton,” Saffold said. “I’ve watched when the City of Stockton would get harassed by the police department and now I’m the Chaplin in the police department. So to see the change, there’s something to be thankful for,” he said.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday which was officially recognized in 2021 by President Joe Biden. Maj. Gen Gordon Granger informed the community of Galveston of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, two years after the proclamation had been issued and months after the end of the Civil War. It was the first time the African Americans of Galveston heard of their freedom.