“Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and celebrates the successes gained through greater opportunity,” Gonzales read from the proclamation, which was first released June 18. “The celebration of Juneteenth reminds each of us of the precious promises of freedom, equality, and opportunity which are at the core of the American Dream.”
Community members gathered at Lake Pflugerville on June 20 to attend In Celebration of Freedom: A Pflugerville Juneteenth. The event was hosted by the nonprofit organizations Black Pflugerville and Pflugerville Black Business Builders.
"I want to say thank you to everybody here for rocking with me these past couple of days to make the first Juneteenth over here in Pflugerville possible," Jackson said. "[Juneteenth to me] means the strength and resilience of my ancestors, because without them, I would not be here."
Texas recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday in 1980, according to documents from the Texas State Historical Association. The holiday is often celebrated with family reunions, picnics, pageants and parades.
For 155 years, Juneteenth has commemorated the liberation of enslaved Black people in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with news that enslaved Texans were freed, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
Several theories regarding the delayed announcement have been shared during the past 155 years, per the Juneteenth World Wide Celebration. These theories include a messenger being killed en route to deliver the news, along with a deliberate withholding of information made by enslavers to continually enforce slavery for plantation operations.
"The prison of slavery is heinous and cruel in conception," Jackson said.
Following Jackson's opening remarks came a performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," often referred to as the Black National Anthem.
Music performances, a poetry reading and an oration on the history of Juneteenth were included as part of the daylong celebration. The event concluded with a community car parade, organized by rising Pflugerville High School senior Rianna Taylor and her mother, Tracey Taylor.
Pflugerville's Juneteenth event came two weeks after Black Pflugerville and the Pflugerville Black Business Builders hosted a march in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all those killed in anti-Black violence and police brutality. Approximately 350 people attended the peaceful march, Council Member Jim McDonald said June 20.
McDonald, also a board member of Black Pflugerville, said that the June 6 march was a fundamental acknowledgement of the pain inflicted against Black people as well as a moment of solidarity between all community members.
"People were angry. People were in pain," McDonald said. "You could see it physically in their bodies."
Both at the June 6 march and the Juneteenth celebration, volunteers were helping register community members to vote as well as informing residents on how they could get involved with Black Pflugerville, Pflugerville Black Business Builders and other city organizations.
Proactive change, McDonald said, needs to come through collaborative efforts from all community members, Black and non-Black residents alike. Pflugerville's diversity serves as one of its strongest assets, McDonald said, adding it is the city's responsibility to continually advocate on behalf of all people who call Pflugerville home.
"For my ancestors and your ancestors to say, 'No, I am not going to break; I am not going to bend; you will not kill me' speaks volumes to who we are as a people," Jackson said. "We're not celebrating the fact that somebody 'freed us'—we are celebrating the fact that our ancestors said 'not today.'"