Rock Hill Juneteenth celebration offers two days of activities

The Fourth of July is still a couple of weeks away, but another celebration of freedom will start tonight.

The ninth annual Rock Hill Juneteenth celebration recognizes the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, got word of their freedom.

News of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves free in January 1863, traveled slowly. It wasn't until 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston that some slaves learned of their freedom from bondage.

Juneteenth celebrates that freedom message every year in cities across the country, with the goal of reaching descendants of slaves, their owners and others. The local theme is "Caring and Sharing."

"The intent of Juneteenth is to bring together more harmony among the descendants of those persons, both black and white," said Zora Holmes, chairwoman of the Rock Hill Juneteenth planning committee. "We know that we cannot go back and undo what was done, but we can definitely work toward improving anything that needs to be improved with respect to that."

Holmes equated the mood of the celebration to the Fourth of July, but she also said it is a time to learn about history.

The two-day event will include live performances, historical re-enactments, arts and crafts, food, games and a free canned, dried and frozen food distribution. Everything is free and open to the public.

Festivities, which kick off at 7 tonight and 11 a.m. Saturday, are being sponsored by Redeeming Life Ministries, the Black Male Summit, Operation Help One Another, Mount Prospect Baptist Church, the MLK Task Force, No Room for Racism and the Committee on Human Relations.

Holmes said she hopes word about Juneteenth will continue to spread.

Last month, Gov. Mark Sanford signed a state law recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth. The legislation says the day is "to commemorate and reflect on the freedom of African Americans and their contributions to this state and nation."