Local Church Honors Emancipation by Celebrating Juneteenth

Published : Friday, June 14, 2019 | 5:17 AM

On Sunday Pasadena’s Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church will honor Juneteenth, the day which commemorates the historic emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederate States of America.

“It’s really meant to be a community event where everybody, adults and children, can come together and celebrate this holiday that honors the African-American experience in a way that not a lot of other holidays do, especially those associated with independence and freedom,” said Jessica Gable, Neighborhood Church’s communications and marketing coordinator.

The holiday’s roots can be found in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. That was the day when a Union major general by the name of Gordon Granger arrived into port to deliver the belated news, by two-and-one-half years, that slaves in Texas had been ordered freed by President Abraham Lincoln.

Granger read to the shocked Gulf port town what is known in Juneteenth lore as General Order Number 3:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The result of the order was not clear cut freedom or justice for Texas’ African-American population. Lynchings and systemic exclusion were the rule of many years to come. But Juneteenth, the tribute to emancipation, slowly took root and its proponents eventually prevailed in getting the State of Texas to declare it a holiday.

A fifth-generation Pasadenan, Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton, who is African American, said his paternal family hails from Arkansas.

“My family members celebrate it in different ways,” he told Pasadena Now. “Whether it be fish fries and barbecue or a party of some sort, it’s always a gathering of family and a reminder of not only where we’ve come from, but how much further we have to go.”

Juneteenth is the oldest, nationally celebrated commemoration of slavery’s demise in the United States.

Historically the barbecue pit is typically the center of attention at many traditional Juneteenth celebrations, where viands were prepared and washed down with strawberry soda.

Gable wasn’t sure if strawberry soda would be available at the Neighborhood Church barbecue, but she noted there would be vegan offerings, perhaps because Pasadena isn’t Galveston.

The twelfth edition of Neighborhood Church’s Juneteenth rejoicing starts with a 10 a.m. church service featuring the “hip-hopera” music of Babatunde Akinboboye.

Actress, writer and producer Zuri Alexander will be guest speaker and give the “Theories” talk. Alexander is creator of the short film “Quiet Denial” and will be addressing the issue of reparations for black Americans.

Later there will be a “Reflection Circle” where people “can have a safe space to discuss the fairly controversial things that are going to be included in the ‘Theories’ talk, because it can be an uncomfortable discussion I think for a lot of people,” said Gable.

“Juneteenth is both a celebration and a call to continue the fight for freedom and justice,” Neighborhood Church said in a statement. “We invite the Pasadena community and members of the media to join us for a Juneteenth that both honors the past and looks to the future with hope and courage.”

Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church, 301 North Orange Grove Boulevard.

Call (626) 449-3470. The religious service starts at 10 a.m., the barbecue, 11:15 a.m.

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