Emancipation Celebration

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Employee Yolanda Bumpers sits in the front of Austin Energy’s “Go Green with Juneteenth” float. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Juneteenth provided opportunities to reflect on history, celebrate progress and share hope for the future in a series of programs that hundreds participated in Saturday.

June 19th, called Juneteenth, marks the anniversary of the day when General Gordon Granger announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery in both the state and the nation, two years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Greater East Austin Youth Association organized the day’s events, including a parade, a run and a historical program.

More than 125 cars and floats from 80 different groups traveled from the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Comal Street to Rosewood Park. Austin Community College had two cars in the parade. The college has participated in the parade the past four years.

“ACC has eight campuses throughout Austin. Two of them are in East Austin,” said college event coordinator Dahlia Anzaldua-Torres. “We just want to remind people about the importance of higher education and that they have a college right in their neighborhood.”

The Greater East Austin Youth Association has hosted Juneteenth celebrations for about 15 years. The group’s commissioner Lee Dawson Jr. said the events act as a fundraiser for the Greater East Austin Youth Association and is an opportunity to educate youth about African-American History.

“[There were] two years we were deprived the freedom we didn’t get because the people of Texas still thought they wanted the free labor,” he said. “It’s important not to forget that.”

Before the parade, the association hosted a 2K freedom run, with 33 people traveling along the parade route. The freedom run marked the end of slavery and focused on health issues facing African-Americans, Dawson said.

“Once African-Americans found out they were free, they were able to walk freely wherever they wanted to go,” Dawson said. “It’s also to let black people know that you have to be healthy; do healthy things because of the diabetes and heart disease that runs through the African-American community.”

After the parade, the association hosted a historical community program featuring gospel music, dance performances and a presentation of the Juneteenth pageant winners.

Nedra Montgomery, an Austin Energy senior auditor, said she was glad to see her son perform in FLAVA Dance Company at the historical community program.

“He needs to know about his heritage, his culture,” she said. “Mostly to help him be a good citizen, be a good American. Learn from the past; hopefully you can build a better future.”

Black Student Alliance President Ashley Robinson said the group encouraged members to attend local festivities.
“I think it’s a really good time for everyone to remember their roots and spend time with their families,” she said. “Especially as college students, we tend to forget that.”

Ryan Brown, a staff assistant and intern for Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said Juneteenth was important for the nation’s history.

“Juneteenth symbolizes not only the beginning of civil freedom, but also the start of social, economic and constitutional rights for African-Americans,” he said.

On the Friday prior to Juneteenth, the city of Austin broke ground on the new African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, which the city plans to complete next year. The $4.4 million building will be a cultural and business center, housing the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce and the ProArts Collective, said project coordinator Sandra Harkins.