People gathered at Folley Park in Chandler Saturday to commemorate something not often taught in school. The Juneteenth celebration serves to remind people about June 19, 1865.
That was the day the slaves in Galveston, Texas, finally heard about the Emancipation Proclamation — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln outlawed slavery.
But Juneteenth, along with many other aspects of black history, are not discussed in school, said 19-year-old Brittany Nix, president of the Mesa Community College division of NAACP and vice president of the Arizona State Youth and College division of NAACP.
Consequently, she said, many people her age are disconnected from their heritage and in some cases even going backward.
“It’s bad for us as kids to say the N-word,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it ends in er or it ends with an a. It’s degrading. So many people fought not to be called that.”
Since Juneteenth is not always taught, the annual Chandler celebration might be the only exposure that some youngsters get. And yet, the focus of the evening was more social than educational. Teens danced onstage. People sat under tents selling goods and children rode a train.
What was present, however, was the history of an older generation that has lived through the days of segregated schools.
Young teens there acknowledged the celebration did not really educate their generation.
“There’s a point where we don’t want to dwell on (the history) too much, but there still needs to be a presence,” said David Roberts, president of the Arizona State Youth and College division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
But he said the event was successful because it united many blacks in celebration.
“It’s nice to see unity, and everyone having a good time,” said Gilbert resident Siminya Nix, 21, Brittany’s sister.