Juneteenth is still two days away, but the celebration of this important milestone in Texas history snaked its way across the east side Saturday morning in an energetic parade. The celebration continued going strong all day at a festival at Comanche County Park.
Many of the fans of the holiday who showed up for the parade said this year, more than ever, it is important to celebrate freedom.
“This year, we're really concentrating on freedom. We're talking about our past, our present, our future and we're trying to keep people focused on freedom," Juneteenth Parade Chairman Oscar Vicks said.
Juneteenth commemorates the moment on June 19 152 years ago when more than 200,000 Texas slaves found out about their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It took that long for the word to reach Texas.
Many parade participants said the best way to honor this important historical event is to pass the message into the future.
“Martin Luther King Jr, said 'Anything you don't value, you're going to lose it.' Your freedom, your wife, your money: You're going to lose it. We're looking forward to everybody coming out and shouting freedom for everybody," Vicks said.
Many young people participated in the parade and joined the call for freedom.
Caiya Wiltshire, 16, is the reigning Queen of the local NAACP group.
“Events like this are important. We need to keep the community together, with all the stuff that's happening today. We need to stay together and build each other up," she said.
18-year old Christian Thomas said he is proud to be part of a group keeping the African American experience alive.
“Due to everything that's happening right now, we could really come together for the better, for our future. I feel like with the right kind of push we can get things done,” Thomas said.
“I am a proud member of the NAACP, and I know events like this are very important to help spread awareness. Overall, America may not be at its best state right now. It's important that we have events like this to represent our youth and help bring up leaders in our community," teen leader Julian Hudspeth said.
13-year-old Korbin Pulchinsky volunteered at the event.
“We all have to band together, no matter what race we are. It's important for everyone to band together, not just specific groups," Pulchinsky said.
The teen said if slavery still existed in America, there would be chaos.
13-year-old Tory Lawson agreed.
“It's very important to influence people to not be violent because that's a very bad thing. We don't need more violence. We need more of these parades," Lawson said.
“We have excellent leaders. We are excited for our youth here who are excited to show their leadership skills and learn to be excellent leaders for America," Regina Horne-Espre, a youth advisor with the local NAACP chapter, said.
Other adults in the crowd spoke about the importance of vigilance.
“I think we should stand strong, particularly in this time with everything going on. I think if we just keep that in mind and stand together and stand strong we can survive these very hard times we're going through now," Billy Gordon, who represents the Buffalo Soldier Association, said.
“Now that we have a new president in office, it seems like everybody's trying to be racially divided. For the most part, this is going to bring everybody together. This is not a black or a white thing, it's a people thing. It's about people's rights," Joseph Harris said.
Several people said it is important to be involved at the local level, since San Antonio is about to host a major national convention. In January, local leaders announced that 10,000 delegates are expected to descend on the city in July 2018 for the national NAACP gathering.
Visit this website to contact the local NAACP chapter.