Fifth annual Junteenth celebration held in Town Jubilee

Juneteenth was a holiday once celebrated primarily by African Americans here in the United States, but celebrations have grown since it became a federally recognized holiday in 2021.

June 19th honors the enslaved people who learned about their freedom 159 years ago, and the day that many Black people in the U.S. consider to be their own Independence Day. Many people believe slavery ended in one swoop when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, but for those in Confederate states such as Texas, the knowledge of their freedom came two years late, in 1865. 

Juneteenth honors the resilience of those formerly enslaved Black Americans, and the descendants who still carry on their legacy.  

"When we first held this event... there was no national holiday representing it so it was off the radar for many people," Loren Taylor, Founder of Empower Oakland told KTVU. 

Oakland's Fifth Annual Juneteenth celebration was held in Oakland's Town Jubilee on Wednesday.

"What Juneteenth represents for the Black community, it's definitely our history. It's a reminder of how hard it is to gain the progress that we need and we deserve," Taylor said. 

Leaders across Oakland were honored for their contributions to uplifting the Black community, particularly Black youth. 

Nita Simpson is the CEO of Battle Tested Kids, a non-profit organization that helps Black athletes. 

"I dont think you wake up and say, 'Hey, I wanna be a trailblazer today,' you just find yourself in those situations. It's a beautiful thing to see the work that you put in yield fruit."

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir joined in to perform, lending their voices to the joyous and yet bittersweet celebration.

Some members of the choir have deep roots in Oakland. One woman's family hails from Texas, but she says even there, not everyone understood the meaning behind the holiday.

"It wasn't really a big thing like it is becomes more important, and it means a lot more to people now than it did in the past," Leola Clark told KTVU. 

Though the first Juneteenth was nearly 160 years ago, Black folks we spoke to say the community is still facing many challenges.

"It's bittersweet in the sense that with everything going on in the country right now... and the regression of how people are looking at black history and it being under a microscope and/or being erased," said Kevin L. Nichols, Founder The Social Engineering Project. 


Oakland Juneteenth celebrations erupt in violence, OPD says multiple shot

An Oakland Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt ended in violence Wednesday night. The Oakland Police Department says multiple people were shot, but did not have an exact number of victims. 

The next generation of change makers was also well represented at the event. Sixteen-year-old Ayo Brame is a saxophonist from Oakland. 

"I'm glad I'm able to continue the lineage and not just let the art form die... a lot of Black kids aren't playing music out here so it's good to continue that and inspire other people," Brame said. 

Inspiring others is a key focus of the work that many of the awardees do in Oakland... and they say their work is a way to tie themselves to the memory of their ancestors. 

"I'm very proud to receive an award on a day like today... I hope that our ancestors are proud of what we're accomplishing here in Oakland," Nichols said. 

You may see people enjoying red drinks and fruit as part of Juneteenth celebrations. That is symbolic of the bloodshed lost in the struggle for freedom and the joy and courage it took for the ancestors to keep going.