St. Daniel’s United Methodist Church hosted its fifth annual Juneteenth celebration on the Chester church’s premises last Saturday in a day that featured speakers, food and rides for children.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, long believed to be the formal end of slavery, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. On that day, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas to inform the slaves about their liberation.
The local event was marked with rides, vendors, a fire escape simulation by the Chester Fire Department, live entertainment and speeches. Among the vendors were people selling kitchenware, a soaps salesman, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), T-shirt vendors and water ice carts.
Church member Livia Smith said Juneteenth honors African-American ancestors who were freed from slavery.
“Freedom to me is to come and go as I please,” Smith said.
She said freedom means everyone should have the same opportunity at receiving an education and being able to vote.
“Voting is one of our systems I participate in,” Smith said. “Today someone is here to register you in the voting system. If you understand the legacy of slavery, you understand what we must do.”
Smith told the audience they need not be slaves to fear, and they need not be slaves to hating those who hate them.
She also encouraged attendees to teach others about the meaning of freedom outside of the Juneteenth celebration.
“Don’t let this celebration be a one-day affair,” Smith told attendees.
Matt Geiger, an employee for the non-profit supermarket Fair & Square, gave fresh fruit to residents.
“Freedom means a lot of different things,” Geiger replied when asked for his take on the concept. “It means to think what you like and to associate with whoever you want to associate with. If my neighbor isn’t free, I’m not free.”
Chester Fire Prevention Officer Derrick Davis provided fire safety scenarios in the Fire Safety Mobile Education vehicle. The simulation involved a Bill Nye fire safety introduction video and a smoke simulation with young children.