The Hancock County NAACP on Saturday hosted the annual Juneteenth celebration at Martin Luther King Park in Waveland.

Hancock County NAACP President Gregory Barabino said it is the day that everyone was notified that slavery ended.

For the past nine years, the Waveland Helping Hands Community Organization has Hosted a Juneteenth celebration, WHHCO Vice-President Clarence Harris said.

According to a WHHCO booklet, “Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two-and-a-half- years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.”

Saturday’s event  featured concessions; a register-to-vote tent; face painting; HENNA art; shirts; tours of an ambulance, police car, and fire truck; art; and music.

This year’s event happened at the same time as nationwide protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd.

“Black lives do matter and it is a good statement,” Barabino said “And everybody’s lives matter, but black lives have a specific situation in this society that we really need to support because we are out of proportion to the rest of the citizens in the society.”

Artist Marian Glaser said she “loves the movement” and thinks “it’s time for a change.” 

“It’s (Juneteenth) another time of the year to look back on our history,” she said.”And remember the people from the past and know exactly when we were freed, not just Fourth of July.”

Waveland Police Chief Mike Prendergast said it’s important for law enforcement to build a relationship with the community.

“I feel with a good community relationship, if there’s something going on in your neighborhood, if you got a good relationship they’ll share information,” Prendergast said. “It helps us solve problems and crimes. If you don’t have a good relationship, then it makes it harder.”

Harris said the idea for celebrating Juneteenth in Waveland was brought to the WHHCO by member Tequila Hall.

“I started reading and understanding what significance it played for months in slavery he said.”The significance of Juneteenth, to me is that once I learned and read what happened, that we should look into it, study it, teach our young generation how when slavery ended that it wasn’t over the whole country.”

Harris said that Juneteenth is a “good educational ceremony.”

“I don’t want to see people take it as a party day,”he said. “Keeping Juneteenth going should be an educational tool. It should bridge gaps, it should have communities of all races coming together to celebrate injustice that happened years ago, but showing that we have bridged the gap and trying to make things better. If society would actually do better by each other, we wouldn’t need Juneteenth or Martin Luther King Day, we wouldn’t need any of those things. It would just be an American day and an American way of celebrating, but due to the fact that we have been oppressed over the years and that we have been put on the bottom, we have to have these types of days and celebrations to try and make the world and communities understand that we are all one. It’s a shame that we have to do that, but we have to do it in peace, we have to do it in a way that we empower every race and not just one race.” 

Harris said Juneteenth has been commemorated in Waveland for nine years, and “we’re still talking about bringing the community together.” 

“We still don’t have the whole community as part of this celebration,” he said. “We can’t make people do it, but the more we talk about it, the more we put it out there, the more people open up and become less sensitive to Juneteenth as being a separate event.”

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