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Juneteenth well attended despite the heat


by Paula McConnell


Hundreds of people converged on the waterfront on a recent Sunday afternoon to celebrate “Juneteenth” which is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Juneteenth is a holiday in the U.S. which honors African American heritage by remembering and commemorating the announcement of the end of slavery in the State of Texas in 1865. It originally began in Texas on June 19, 1900. The prime significance is the liberation of the last remaining slaves within the United States, and it is a testimony to just how arrogantly defiant the state of Texas was at the time.


Although Lincoln had issued his Proclamation of Emancipation in September of 1862, some Confederate states remained persistently resistant. The state of Texas held onto all slaves until June 19th of 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger (backed up by more than 2,000 federal troops) spoke out in Galveston, Texas. They had arrived the day before on June 18th to takeover the state and enforce absolutely the freedom of all African slaves.


On June 19th, General Granger read a proclamation which in part reads: “…..all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them now becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They will not be allowed to collect (wages) at military posts, and they will not be supported in idleness, either there, or elsewhere.” Now traditionally celebrated on June 19th, the word ‘Juneteenth’ is a combination of the words June, for the month of June, and nineteenth.

Despite the hundred degree temperature Vallejo’s recent Juneteenth celebration was well attended. Mayor Osby Davis and councilmembers Erin Hannigan, Robert McConnell and Bob Sampayan were spotted in attendance. On the grand stage, and on the grassy area in front of the stage, singers, dancers, and musicians offered delightful and occasionally historical entertainment throughout the entire day. And multiple booths offering myriad services from health to education and even self defense classes dotted the grounds. The annual Pirate Festival was also taking place across he street.

Vallejo School Board member, and community activist, Adrienne Waterman, and her daughter Stella were seen at the “Food Rescue” booth. “Food Rescue” is a concept created by Adrienne which helps to rescue surplus food from the gardens of Vallejo residents. So far this group has rescued thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables from people’s yards. “It is incredible the amount of food we gather to feed people who might not otherwise have it,” said Adrienne. “If you ‘can’ some of it, it will last even longer, and would feed hundreds more,” she continued. Her little daughter Stella shook her head enthusiastically in agreement. Councilmember and Solano County Superintendent candidate, Erin Hannigan, was seen at the Vallejo Booth offering hints and tips on how and what to recycle. She was collecting support and information as to whether or not people are carrying their own shopping bags to grocery stores, or whether they still ask for plastic bags. “I would like to see an ordinance like they have in San Francisco where we stop using plastic altogether someday,” Hannigan said. Her teenage daughter was also with her to support the recycle effort. Councilmember Bob Sampayan showed his usual enthusiasm for the event while posing for a photograph with the rest of the City Council attendees. “I hope this picture will not have someone saying that we are violating the Brown Act,” Mayor Osby Davis quipped. Just for the record, the foursome went on their separate way after the photo was taken. “We look forward to seeing you at next year’s Juneteenth Celebration,” one vendor said. If the heat persists next year as it did this year, bring ice, and wear a hat. See you there.