Bay Area kicks off 1st official Juneteenth holiday

June 19 is now officially Juneteenth National Independence Day, a day that celebrates when slaves were told they were free.

The annual holiday has been celebrated by Black folks since the late 1800s who have taken to the streets to cheer their freedom, education and achievement.

The holiday is actually on Saturday and there are plenty of local events in the Bay Area starting a day early.

In Oakland, the famous Everett and Jones BBQ will hold an event Friday at noon where community leaders, advocates, Black businesses, and investors are expected to be in attendance.

Over in San Francisco, a two-year installation by Bay Area sculptor Dana King will be revealed. The artwork honors Black history and lives representing the 350 souls kidnapped from Africa and forced onto the slave ship San Juan Bautista in 1619. 

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It wouldn’t be until June 19, 1865, that slaves were told they were free, more than two years after the emancipation proclamation was signed and issued.

The day, also known as Jubilee Day, is an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from as a nation and where we’re going.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, both Black women from the Bay Area, was there on Thursday when President Joe Biden made the holiday official. 

"My great grandmother, Fanny Wilson, was born as an enslaved child right outside Galveston," Lee said. "This was a remarkable moment, somber yet joyous moment."

Lee said that she is moved by the fact that her great-grandmother's experience, along with countless others, is being marked by the country.

"I think this is a truth-telling moment," she said. "Everyone's history needs to be included in this great country's mosaic."

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: (L-R) Ninety-four-year-old activist and retired educator Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden after he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law in the Eas