There were several Juneteenth celebrations around San Diego Saturday.
Juneteenth, observed annually on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery. The holiday has been celebrated for decades in Black communities, but it only became a national holiday days ago.
“It’s not talked about a lot but its history. It’s our history. It's everyone’s history that’s why we should all celebrate it because we’ve moved forward,” said Marla Cooper, organizer of an annual Juneteenth celebration in San Diego.
Celebrations of Juneteenth were held across the county including at Palomar Mountain, Logan Heights, the Old Globe outdoor theater in Balboa Park, and a bike ride from Mission Bay to Chicano Park, National City, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach.
At Memorial Park in Logan Heights, Juneteenth flags waved in the wind, while hundreds of people of all backgrounds were celebrating the new national holiday.
“It’s really tears of joys because it’s about what our ancestors suffered. It’s due,” said Mario White, a San Diego resident.
The park was filled with music, and the aroma of food Saturday. Vendors were selling art and clothing. There was also a health fair where people could receive a free COVID-19 vaccine. Art displays and information booths helped festival-goers learn about the nation's history and how it affects us today.
“It just makes you feel like part of the community and you get to learn the history we unfortunately don’t learn inside school, so I thought it was very important for her to hold that as well,” said Jasmine Mathis-Mussman as she held her three-year-old daughter in her arms.
For Mathis-Mussman it’s important for people of all backgrounds to acknowledge our past.
“It doesn’t just take the Black community to stop what happened in history. If we’re not knowledgeable. If we don’t all celebrate it. This could potentially happen again down the line. It takes all of us to be part of the celebration,” said Mathis-Mussman.
The creation of a national Juneteenth holiday comes on the heels of the George Floyd killing and trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.
“Look at what happened with George Floyd. It wasn’t just Black people marching. It was all cultures. And all races marching for humanity,” Cooper said.
It is in that spirit of unity that many San Diegans are working together on issues like police reform. Juneteenth also highlights work that still needs to be done.
“We also released a pay equity survey that showed we pay our Black and brown employees less than their white counterparts. That our education system shows huge disparities among our Black and brown students. And when it comes to housing, too many of our neighborhoods are segregated,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
While the community acknowledges issues remain, the celebration will continue as more San Diegans learn about Juneteenth.