Saturday was a celebration of freedom in Longview.
Residents gathered for an annual parade and activities at Broughton Park to mark Juneteenth, which is a holiday celebrated June 19 as the day that Union soldiers in 1865 told enslaved African-Americans in Galveston that the Civil War had ended and they were free.
Wanda Williams, coordinator for the city’s Parks and Recreation department, said Juneteenth is an important day to celebrate freedom and community.
“This day, it’s just a joyous day for us all, and we really enjoy celebrating this day,” she said. “Because it means a lot to all of us — not only to the older generation, but to the younger generation because it gives them a lot of education. It teaches them a lot about how we were in bondage, but now we’re all free from that bondage, and it’s been 154 years of freedom. That’s a lot of years.”
The celebration included a parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, food and merchandise vendors, a softball tournament and live music.
Cordero Watkins said the day is “African-American Independence Day” and is important to him.
Jackie Austin said she brought her 2-year-old son so he can see the lights and different cars in the parade, but so he can also start learning about the holiday.
“They don’t really teach black history in schools anymore,” she said. “To learn about the day that we were able to have our rights and be free from slavery, it’s important for our children to grow up and learn that so they know this is the day that changed African-Americans’ lives.”
Shamonika Carr said celebrating Juneteenth is important for children.
“It’s for the kids, for the culture. They need to understand what happened, their history. It’s all for the kids,” she said. “It’s their history, nobody else’s. It’s theirs; they’re black. They need to know this is very important and what happened. If this hadn’t happened, we’d all still be in chains.”