By Andrea Nakano

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — After weeks of sometimes tense protests, the community gathered for a peaceful, joyful celebration Friday in Oakland for Juneteenth.

Many in the black community said this is their Fourth of July. It was quite a party that left Lakeshore Avenue a parking lot as thousands of people packed into this Lake Merritt area.

READ MORE: SF Man Found Fatally Shot Early Saturday Near Oakland's Lake Merritt

Fireworks were set off right in the middle of the street on Grand Avenue, lighting up the night sky. Cars crawled along Grand and Lakeshore, looking for a place to park.

Oakland residents and others from the Bay Area celebrating a historic day in black history.

“I’m just trying to make sure I celebrate black struggle, black joy and black hard work,” said San Francisco resident Janay Washington.

The celebration was filled with music, food and friends.

“It’s nice to see people come together but still being able to celebrate us,” said San Francisco’s Ebony Mayfield.

READ MORE: Counties Across California Want Out of Blue Shield-Administered Vaccine Program

With traffic clogging the streets, Derrick Garner with the Black Cowboy Association had what may have been the best mode of transportation in the park, trotting into the party on the back of his horse.

“I’m just here to represent and using my horse as a pedestal,” said Garner.

Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day — commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It is a time in history that some say gets overlooked in many classrooms.

“They can talk about Christopher Columbus, but they’re not teaching black history. And black history is what built this country to be what it is today,” said Jamal Truelove from Oakland.

This celebration at Lake Merritt comes on the heels of two potential hate crimes. Earlier this week, several ropes — including one that appeared to have a noose — were found hanging from the trees. On Thursday, an effigy was found dangling on a limb.

Those here say Friday is about a positive celebration but also a reminder that work still needs to be done to achieve equality.

MORE NEWS: VIDEO: San Francisco Firefighters Rescue Labrador Puppy From Fort Funston Cliff

“I think people are very afraid of change but I think at the end of the day, it just needs to happen,” said Washington.