Joys of freedom unite Juneteenth celebrants

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For 4-year-old Miracle and 7-year-old Asia, the Juneteenth celebration on Saturday meant getting to play on an inflatable obstacle course.


But for their uncle, Kenneth Washington, 60, the day meant so much more.


The celebration, held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Long Beach, commemorated the granting of freedom for slaves in Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was passed in 1863, slaves in Texas were not granted freedom until June 19, 1865.


“This event means the community getting together, having a good time and recognizing what Juneteenth is all about, and that’s freedom,” Washington said. “Everyone is getting along and showing love for each other.”


Bands played, and food simmered on a barbecue as about 100 people of all races and colors celebrated the holiday.


The event also included an annual dominoes tournament and free health screenings from St. Mary Medical Center.


“There are no color lines here,” Washington said. “That’s the beautiful thing about Juneteenth. Everyone is getting along, and all of us have gone through things in America, but today we can come together and have a beautiful day together.”


Marilyn Lee, 62, of Long Beach, said her great-great-great-grandparents were slaves in Arkansas, and she recognized Juneteenth in their honor.


Lee said she was glad to be living with the freedom that her ancestors didn’t get to experience.


“The way things are today aren’t that much better, but they are, because I have the freedom to become whatever I want to be,” she said.


Sean Earl, 47, of Long Beach said his grandchildren were excited to play on the obstacle course, and they didn’t yet understand what Juneteenth is.


“This is like the Fourth of July for black people,” he explained to them. “This is our day of independence.”


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