Thousands celebrate Juneteenth in the Bay Area

Thousands of people across the Bay Area celebrated Juneteenth on Saturday.

The event marking the end of chattel slavery in the US took on greater significance this year, as it’s now been recognized as a federal holiday.

Thursday, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

It’s a day that’s been celebrated in many African-American communities for decades, but now everyone has a reason to celebrate.

There’s jubilation over Juneteenth.

In Antioch, people gathered at Waldie Plaza to celebrate that day back in 1865 when slaves in Texas finally got word about the end of slavery, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation abolished it.

Claryssa Wilson started this event last year.

"A lot of my friends who are my age had no idea what Juneteenth was," said Claryssa Wilson. "So, just to be able to help further educate people, even older adults that really didn’t understand the true significance of juneteenth."

Amidst the celebration, there was also an honor, of Thomas Gaines a freed slave, believed to be the first African-American living in Antioch in the early 1860s when it was illegal for a black person to be out at night.

"I do know that Thomas Gaines is someone who is very, very important in our community and someone who doesn’t get recognized enough in the Antioch community," said Wilson.

At the tenth annual Juneteenth event in Pittsburg, organized by the non-profit Souljah’s, there was a mix of celebration and realization.

"We still see the legacy of slavery today, so for us it was a token freedom," said Greg Osorio, with the non-profit Souljah’s

The symbolic gesture of a new holiday is nice, says Osorio, but more measures with dollar signs attached are needed.

"Real money on the table.  I think there should be a number of things, institutional reparations in terms of free schools and college free tuition for everybody in the black community, we believe alongside that, small business grants," said Osorio.

In San Francisco, there was the first-ever Megablack SF Juneteenth on the Waterfront, at the Ferry Building.

More than ten black businesses were there, and so was mayor London Breed, who has already signed an executive directive giving city workers the day off, and she hopes the private sector will follow.

"And I hope people don’t just take this as a day to sit back and relax, but to study the history of what this day means to African Americans and rededicate themselves to equality and justice," said Mayor Breed.