SAN DIEGO (CNS) – As part of an effort to celebrate the diversity of San Diego’s residents, Mayor Todd Gloria was joined by Councilwomen Monica Montgomery Steppe and Marni von Wilpert, his Black Advisory Group, and members of the public to declare Juneteenth in the city Friday.
“Juneteenth marks the day freedom was realized for Black slaves in this country,” Gloria said. “Though it was over 100 years ago, our Black community still wades through the traumatic effects of slavery and its residue of injustice.” Gloria said.
“I’m grateful to see the steps we’re making as a city and a nation toward righting the wrongs done toward our Black community. Proclaiming Juneteenth shows that we acknowledge and recognize the importance of celebrating freedom.”
June 19, 1865 is the day when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas and announced to more than 250,000 enslaved Blacks that they were free by executive decree.
“As African Americans, we must preserve our culture and teach our history, including the true meaning of Juneteenth,” said Montgomery Steppe, the sole Black San Diego city council member.
“In this country, there is a history of commercializing and diluting the significance of historical events and erasing African Americans from the history books.
“We are still fighting for the Juneteenth promise of liberation and equity for all African Americans. Today’s ceremony is more than a symbolic gesture at City Hall. It is about preserving our history and telling our own stories.”
A bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday was signed into law Thursday by President Joe Biden.
Scholars, activists and businesses reacted to the news on Friday.
“It was very surprising, man,” said Makeda ‘Dread’ Cheatom, owner of the World Beat Cafe. “Very surprising. I’m so happy. My parents, you know, they worked hard.”
Cheatom said her Texas roots would be extremely proud of the sentiment Juneteenth brings to the nation.
“All of us are together; none of us will be free,” she said.
Shane Harris, a local activist and president of the People’s Alliance for Justice, called it “a real opportunity and we need to seize it as a country.” It is a moment in which all races should be proud of their country, he said.
“This moment is historic,” Harris said. “But the actions that we take after this moment and the national holiday being implemented are really important.”
Historically, Juneteenth has been celebrated at City Hall with a presentation by the District 4 council member and the San Diego City Black Employees Association.
“It is so important that we commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and we use this day of remembrance to drive action,” von Wilpert said.
“While we have come a long way, there is still much work to be done in the fight for racial justice in our country.”
Last year marked the first time a flag was hung commemorating Juneteenth at City Hall. This year will be the first time the flag is raised at City Hall.
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