Savory aromas and billowing smoke came from the barbecue grill that provided free food to attendees of the Juneteenth Celebration at Douglass Park on Saturday. Music boomed from speakers, children giggled and played, and people of all ages tried to find relief from the heat as they came together to celebrate the nation’s oldest commemoration of the end of slavery.
The two-day event, which continues today, is hosted by the Parks and Recreation Department. A car show, disc jockey, games and guest speakers were among the featured activities. Camren Cross, Columbia community recreation supervisor, said the celebration of Juneteenth is one of many positive events for the community.
“It’s a pretty important part of American history,” Cross said. “We try to have something every month that has some educational value.”
Michael Duffy, a resident of Columbia for the past three years, said he has been to Juneteenth celebrations in Alaska and Texas but wasn’t aware Columbia celebrated the event.
“I was driving by, and I saw a lot of people in the park, so I wanted to see what was going on,” Duffy said. “It’s important that we don’t forget what our ancestors went through. I hope people aren’t here just to eat barbecue and drink. It looks like some good fellowship is going on here.”
The celebration was predominantly attended by African-Americans. Khesha Duncan, a volunteer at a booth supporting Barack Obama for president, said she hopes the celebration will become more diverse in the future. Duncan said the Juneteenth Celebration should be like the “Not in Our Town” event, a peaceful protest event against the Nazis that also took place in Douglass Park and attracted a large and diverse crowd.
“If we don’t see more diversity at the event in the future, it will be telling about where we are in this community,” she said. “I think it goes both ways. We need to reach out to (other groups) and let them know they are welcome here, and they need to be open and interested in coming.”