The SEIU 721 African American Caucus put on another event to remember with this year’s Juneteenth Block Party at Expo Park.
The event, which was co-hosted by the office of Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Sr., featured live music, food trucks, a kids zone, photo booth and more. There was even a cash vault where participants could win up to $100!
“This year we just really wanted to put something together for the whole community to enjoy,” said Simboa Wright, President of the African American Caucus. “SEIU 721 members are proud of the work we do to serve our communities and this is just another way for us to give back and show our appreciation.”
The block party, which was free and open to the public, was made possible with generous donations from sponsors including Kaiser Permanente, Anthem Blue Cross, United Healthcare and SEIU Local 99. Participants enjoyed performances by Connect Band, Vision, Percussionist Taylor Gordon, My Likkle Reggae Band, Lyrical Groove and DJ Major League.
Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer, Sr. honored several fathers from the community with a “World’s Best Dad” award, noting that it was important to recognize the contributions and efforts of hard-working fathers. He also pointed out that Juneteenth is a special time for those whose ancestors were enslaved, “to re-invigorate ourselves about how strong a people we are.”
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It was June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers led by Maj. General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War was over and that the enslaved were now free.
Sadly, that news came nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation!
Before long, the former slaves in southeastern Texas began to celebrate June 19 as Emancipation Day and the name was eventually shortened to Juneteenth.
Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It’s a time for reflection, rejoicing, assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future.
SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover said the holiday is meaningful for those in the labor movement because it represents what we want for all working people: true freedom.
He noted that Unions have played a huge role in narrowing the wage gap for black workers and that it was the emergence of labor unions that helped usher Black families into the Middle Class.
“The fight for Civil Rights in this country goes hand-in-hand with the fight for Labor Rights,” he said while addressing the crowd. “So today we are here to celebrate Juneteenth and the legacy of fighting together to make sure black working families have a real shot at that promise of freedom. …Bottom line, when union workers do better, we ALL do better!”
Click below to watch a re-cap of the block party and whatever you do, don’t miss this event next year!