MARIN CITY (KPIX) — June 19 — Juneteenth — commemorates the unofficial end of slavery in America but June 19, 2021 was the first time it was actually recognized as an official, national holiday. That had special meaning to people gathered at Marin City for a celebration.
Juneteenth marks the day that Union soldiers arrived in Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved people were free. The effective end of slavery was celebrated by the Black community then just as it was Saturday in Marin City.
At the town’s fifth-annual festival, Pastor Floyd Thompkins reminded the crowd that the news came two and half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. There are various explanations about why the news was delivered so late. One is that a government messenger was murdered on the way to Texas. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld to maintain the plantation labor force for as long as possible.
As a result, Pastor Thompkins said, for Black Americans, Juneteenth is not just about achieving freedom but also the betrayal of trust that came with it.
“We’re looking at how history is told and how it’s hidden,” he said, “this is what Juneteenth represents because it took a while, very intentionally, to tell people that they were free because the history, the news, was being manipulated.”
Until now, the memory of Juneteenth has been kept alive largely by the Black community, with little in the history books to mark its importance. That’s why the establishment of the date as a national holiday gave added significance to Saturday’s festival.
“It’s always been a holiday to us, you know what I mean?” said a young woman named Keldamucik. “But, that being said, it’s allowing the world to know the meaning of Juneteenth, everything about it, behind it and the celebration of it.”
“With all that has gone on, we are really being lifted up,” said Marin City resident Ida Green, “so that the nation, the world, sees our contributions and that, truly, Blacks matter.”
Juneteenth marks the end of slavery but not of the struggle.
“Juneteenth has suddenly become not just a historical artifact but a live, living reality that now catapults us into the future and what we think of ourselves and where we’re going,” said Rev. Thompkins.
“Today — now is the time,” added Green. “Here we are in the 21st century, there’s no looking back! We can’t go back. We are not trying to relive the past. We can only move forward.”