Thousands gathering in Odessa this weekend to celebrate freedom. Every year the Black Cultural Council of Odessa putting together a series of Juneteenth events to honor the day slaves in the West learned they were free.
President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863 freeing all slaves but word traveled slow.
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger led thousands of federal troops to Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War had ended, and slaves had been freed. More than 200,000 Texan slaves had no idea that their freedom had been secured two years earlier.
Bellen Jones lives in Odessa and comes out to the Juneteenth celebration every year.
“We talk about the meaning of Juneteenth and a lot of people don’t know this,” Jones said. “It’s fun and interesting to hear the things that go on in life…and you learn from them.”
Jones says in addition to a history lesson she can always count on good food.
Tamika Green has been a vendor at the event since 1999. This year, Green decorated her booth with the names of the victims in the Orlando shooting.
“The best part is seeing all these people from all different walks of life…not just black people..every race comes out and just enjoys themselves,” Green said.
Organizers estimate more than 6000 people showed up to celebrate this year.
Tommie Haynes, secretary of the Black Cultural Council pleased with the turnout, seeing people from all over the country in West Texas.
“Our attendance is really growing from previous years,” Haynes said. “I’ve been talking to people from Arizona, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and more.”
This year extra special to organizers because it’s the first time they’ve used Woodson Park since the renovations earlier this year.