Fourteen summers ago I happened upon a festive gathering in a strip mall parking lot on H Street and Owens Avenue. My first experience with Juneteenth happened to be the city’s first large-scale commemoration of June 19, 1865, the day slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom. A black history buff, I somehow knew next to nothing about Juneteenth. I wasn’t the only one. Organizers gathered a group of us neophytes and filled in the historical blanks: Though the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery on January 1, 1863, it took two and a half years and additional Union troops to enforce the executive order and inform the Galveston slaves of their freedom; some areas have celebrated Juneteenth for more than a century. In the years since my Juneteenth discovery, I’ve become an advocate, campaigning (mostly among family) to give it the same respect as the Martin Luther King Holiday. Meantime, organizers of local observances watched interest grow, with the food and music festival hosted by Diane and Anthony Pollard annually welcoming hundreds to venues like Lorenzi Park, the Clark County  Government Center Amphitheater and Symphony Park. It’s history, with a side of fun.

 

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