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Richmond celebrates Juneteenth Festival

on June 21, 2010

Politicians, dancers, a Corvette convoy, horses and more paraded from 21st Street and Cutting Boulevard to 37th Street and MacDonald Avenue celebrating the annual Juneteenth Festival this Saturday morning. The festivities continued in the afternoon at Nichol Park, where people gathered to enjoy live music, food and sneak a peak at about 40 community and business booths that were offering their services.

The Juneteenth Festival is a commemoration of the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation. The announcement in Texas made the enslaved legally freed in all the United States. Juneteenth is now a recognized holiday in 37 states. Although this is a celebration of African American heritage, in Richmond everyone felt welcome to join.

“Pride and purpose, that’s what Richmond is all about,” said Mel Davis, a member of the National Brotherhood Alliance, the group that organized the event, while standing in front of Nichol Park and speaking by microphone to the crowd.

It was a family event for the city residents and from visitors like Eric Assata who lives in Oakland. “I came to have a good time. It’s a close getaway,” he said while holding hands of three little girls, who were his granddaughter, grandniece and niece.

“It’s like Cinco de Mayo for us,” said Martin Hernandez, who was born in Mexico. “We want to share with them this important day,” Hernandez said referring to African Americans.

“It’s good that it’s multicultural. We have to celebrate each other,” said Lynda Moore, a Richmond resident who commemorates Juneteenth every year with her family. She likes this event because “people come together and don’t act crazy,” she said.

Although there was a heavy police presence, those attending the event seemed to be calmly enjoying the performances and the diverse booths. The booths represented everyone from shoes and jewelry sellers to sports teams like the West County Spartans Football, but most of them were for community organizations like the Brookside Health Center, a non-profit primary care clinic.

Gregory Madison used to live in Richmond and came from Oakland to the Juneteenth celebration for the first time in five years. “I’m glad to see that it’s still going strong,” he said.

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