Juneteenth, a day celebrated by many Americans as a day of independence is now recognized across the U.S. as a federal holiday.
More than 150 years later, President Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law, celebrating the day people held in bondage in Texas learned they were free.
Reverend Stephen Vines, , the president of the NAACP of San Luis Obispo County, described how Juneteenth is an opportunity to “Begin to really talk about, you know, about the issues you know and move forward and what needs to be done here in 2021.”
The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in 1863, a few years before it was recognized in Texas on June 19th, 1865.
KSBY spoke to the president of the NAACP of San Luis Obispo County about the legacy and traditions surrounding the holiday.
Reverend Vines told KSBY, “People of color to be in bondage, to finally be free, to go where they want to go, to have a family, that their family is not getting split and sold, and beaten and all the other atrocities that happened during slavery.”
The U.S. Senate approved the bill recognizing the holiday unanimously this week and President Biden signed Juneteenth into law on Thursday.
Reverend Vines described navigating the impact of slavery and modern racism. "Hate cannot be corralled…Once it’s inside you, it’s like a festering disease like COVID, like COVID-19 and it affects everyone around you," he said.
Now federal employees will have Friday off in recognition of Juneteenth, which falls on a Saturday this year.
It is the first new federal holiday since Dr. Martin Luther King Day almost 40 years ago.
Cheryl Vines and her husband are the Co-Founders of the NAACP Chapter in San Luis Obispo County.
She said, “This is a vision that my husband and I had some time ago to bring Juneteenth to San Luis Obispo County.”
They are organizing an in-person film screening and a panel to celebrate this year. In years prior to the pandemic, there were larger gatherings with booths, dancing and more.
Reverend Vines said, “You know, you dress up because you know it was a time you could dress up and come together and enjoy and celebrate being free.”
This is the fourth time the chapter is hosting Juneteenth, and the panel on Saturday aims to further the conversation about slavery and oppression through the decades and now.
Cheryl Vines explained, “How slavery affected us, through high blood pressure, through the Middle Passage, through being packed in like sardines.”
The NAACP partnered with the San Luis Obispo County Department of Behavioral Health and health activists to speak about generational pain and trauma, the disparities in institutions including health, as well as to celebrate past and present, resilience and joy.
Linda Janet Holmes, a women’s health activist and a keynote speaker at the event, said, “Even in the horrors of slavery, we found ways to survive, and also ways to seek freedom and independence.”
Friday, there will be music and spoken word from local artists. On Saturday, they will live stream the panel.
The panel includes several doctors and a forensic pathologist who works at the county.
Cheryl Vines said, “We want people to be aware of, you know, our history and where it came from.”
The NAACP is accepting reservations to attend on their website as well as walk-ins.
Places like Paso Robles and Lompoc are also hosting Juneteenth celebrations.