BRYAN, Texas — The holiday Juneteenth marks the beginning of African Americans' freedom in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, the soldiers in Galveston, Texas read off the documentation, that announced the freedom of African Americans living in Texas. Juneteenth is now considered a federal holiday.
While celebrating this year, Brazos Valley residents discussed the hate crime, that left 10 African Americans dead and wounded three in Buffalo, New York
The residents discussed the impact of the crime and how emotionally hurt the community was. 18-year-old, Peyton Gendron, wore military clothes and live-streamed with his helmet camera. Gendron opened fire with his rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York targeting only African Americans.
Kristian Mitchell, a Bryan resident, told KAGS what Juneteenth meant to her.
"Personally, being black, I'm very proud of that, I'm very proud of who I am and I'm not scared to be black," Mitchell said.
The community reflected on the journey to present-day Juneteenth. They discussed the challenges African Americans faced in the past like the Jim Crow laws, hate groups, and racial oppression given to them during the aftermath of slavery.
Tre Watson, a community activist, said "Black is beautiful, being black has always been beautiful".
"Black is bold, unapologetic, and unique because of the many complexities that make up the community", said Watson.
Waston told KAGS, that he is partnering with Brazos Valley African American Museum, to host a Juneteenth event. Waston said, 1865, may have been declared the year that slaves were free, but Watson believes equality hasn't been reached yet in this country.
"Juneteenth is something that everyone should know and should be celebrated as well because if you really think we're all equal there's no reason for anyone not to celebrate Juneteenth," Watson said
The community feels there is injustice and tragedies, yet the holiday will be celebrated with happiness and embracement of culture. Sequietta Williams, the Brazos resident, described the holiday as a day for African Americans to express themselves and embrace their culture without forgiveness.
"I just feel like we should be able to be who we are all the time," Williams said.
The residents and activist Watson, are encouraging those of the African American community in Brazos valley to encourage each other and celebrate Juneteenth. The residents, who are not a part of the African American community, are encouraged to still learn about the holiday and its history.
"I'm Black and proud, I'm glad I've learned that being black is not a bad thing in this world," Mitchell said.