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Day one of Juneteenth celebration at Emancipation Park joyous despite the heat

The two-day event includes concerts by The Isley Brothers, Sheila E, Kool & The Gang and Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly.

HOUSTON — This weekend's two-day Juneteenth celebration in Houston's Emancipation Park kicked off Saturday with music and memories of those honored on this historic day.

Thousands of people braved the afternoon heat to enjoy the festivities. There were high-powered misting fans to keep the crowd cool and many people brought umbrellas for shade. There were also cooling buses and tents available throughout the park.

“It’s just been wonderful. It’s been great," Jeffery Mitchell who came down from Humble. “It’s a wonderful thing not only for the Black community but for America period.”

Organizers said this year's celebration promises to be better and bigger than ever because it marks the park's 150-year anniversary. 

“It means a lot. And to be able to represent the 157 years of freedom," said Briar Monice, Junior Teen Miss Juneteenth.

The event features concerts with The Isley Brothers, Sheila E, Kool & The Gang and Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly and along with several gospel stars.

Credit: KHOU 11
A two-day Juneteenth celebration at Emancipation Park is underway.

Along with the musical lineup, they have a kids zone, food and more. 

"Today we celebrate our freedom, our liberation, our independence," Mayor Sylvester Turner told the crowd. "Let's stand up, let's make a difference, let's prepare for future generations, bearing in mind those who paid the price, made the sacrifice, those slaves. Now we are free."

Though slavery was abolished in 1863, it wasn’t until two years later, on June 19, 1865, that enslaved Texans first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted them freedom.

As African Americans themselves became landowners, they had more freedom to celebrate as they wished.

One well-known example was the Rev. Jack Yates, a pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Houston. In 1872, Rev. Yates helped raise $1,000 to put down on 10 acres of land for future Juneteenth events. They named it Emancipation Park.

"In order for them to work together as a community, they helped to make the community of Houston even a better community than it was, for it was only 30 years old itself at the time," Yates great granddaughter Jackie Bostic said back in April when the event was announced. "This is something that we should all be proud of."

RELATED: The history behind the holiday: 15 things you may not know about Juneteenth

Emancipation Park was the first park in Houston and it's one of the oldest parks in Texas.

Because of racial segregation laws, Emancipation Park remained the only city park in Houston where African Americans were allowed until 1939 when Finnegan Park opened.

WATCH: Full presentation of KHOU 11's "Juneteenth 1865-2022: The Pursuit of Economic Equality."

WATCH: KHOU 11's 'Juneteenth 1865-2021'

Sources: Juneteenth.com; Texas State Historical Association; City of Houston

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