Juneteenth celebrated at Ann Arbor's Wheeler Park
A part of history was celebrated at Wheeler Park in Ann Arbor all afternoon Saturday. It's called the Juneteenth Celebration, and the purpose is to recognize the freeing of slaves in Texas and the southwest.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed Jan. 1, 1863, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which freed all slaves in all states, was signed in February 1865. However, the announcement of those historic events didn't reach the southwest until June 19, 1865.
Juneteenth is now celebrated in 41 states and has been celebrated in Ann Arbor for the past 18 years.
"There are many people of African American descent whose families have migrated north from the south and this event keeps us in touch with our roots," said Lauretta Flowers, talent coordinator for the event.
Flowers says that in past years as many as 300 people, mostly from Washtenaw and Wayne Counties, have attended the Ann Arbor celebration. This year's event is sponsored by the Ann Arbor branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"It's important to know who you are and where you came from," said William V. Hampton, president of the Ann Arbor branch of the NAACP, who is originally from Tyler, Texas. "Juneteenth is a spectacular celebration in Texas. It's the oldest African American holiday."
Hampton says that Ann Arbor's Juneteenth celebration is one of the oldest in Michigan.
"Young kids say it's ancient history, but it wasn't that long ago," Hampton said, in reference to slavery. "This is part of my heritage."
"Juneteenth is a historical day all people should be aware of," said Edna Gray, a member of the NAACP who visited today's event. "It's part of the history of the nation, and should be acknowledged and appreciated by everyone, not just African Americans."
Pat White, who lives in Detroit, was a vendor at the event selling clothing.
"I'm a member of the NAACP and believe in what they've done over the years," she said. "Juneteenth is important to me."
Reggie Beasley from Ann Arbor and his nephew Josh McCoy from Flint also were vendors today. They were selling photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohammed Ali, and Malcolm X, and T-shirts featuring Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and President Obama.
"Obama shirts are not selling as strong as they did when he won the election in 2008 and became the first African American to be elected president," said Beasley.
Dozens of children also were attending the Juneteenth Celebration. That's why Janice Amin, a local representative of the Girl Scouts, set up a booth.
"Most girls are interested in leadership, but only one in five believes she can be a leader," said Amin. "We want to help develop leadership skills in girls and are looking to increase participation in the African American community."