By Matthew Rodriguez
Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor
In honor of Juneteenth, My Tribe Rise will host a freedom march and block party.
Juneteenth, June 19, is the annual holiday celebrating the anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States. Since the late 1800s, African Americans have gathered to celebrate this day. Although the day has always carried importance, the protests last year and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black Americans, garnered renewed interest and significance.
“I feel like in a sense we’re still marching for that freedom,” said Heavenly Hughes, co-founder of My Tribe Rise. “We’re still asking for human and civil rights.”
While the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, freed slaves on paper, the full implementation of the decree would not be enforced until the end of the Civil War.
Following the surrender of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, in the Appomattox, Virginia, Union soldiers began to march to Texas, as the state continued to practice slavery. On June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, freeing the 250,000 slaves in Texas, over two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Also referred to as “Emancipation Day,” “Jubilee Day” and “Freedom Day,” Juneteenth derives its name from the combination of June and 19.
“This is our July 4th, this is our independence day,” said My Tribe Rise co-founder Victor Hodgeson. “This day is very sacred to us because this would be our true day of emancipation for Black folks.”
While the day celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, it also serves as a reminder of the atrocities many had to endure.
“People were enslaved and treated as animals,” said Dr. Sandra Thomas, board member of the Altadena Historical Society.
“They had nothing of their own. They weren’t even entitled to know anything or have their own thoughts.”
Thomas hopes the memory of these atrocities motivates others to continue to advocate for civil rights for everyone.
“I don’t want people to be discouraged in any way,” Thomas said. “The battle is not over, but it’s come a long way.”
Juneteenth also carries renewed significance following the protests against police brutality and killings of African Americans across the country.
“We are no longer property,” Hughes said.
“We are no longer in chains. We should not be slaughtered, murdered and killed just for our skin being Black.”
Hughes, Hodgeson and Thomas hope that Juneteenth will also bring everyone together no matter race or creed.
“We’re all in this battle together,” Thomas said. “We’re going to all struggle together and we’re all going to get through it together. We’re all going to be fine together.”
The event is open to the public and begins at 4:30 p.m. with a freedom march leading to a block party at Charles White Park, where there will be live music, food trucks, poetry and keynote speakers. Masks and social distancing requirements are still required.