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The third annual Juneteenth celebration brought Laurens residents together to learn more, gather as a community and celebrate the date African American slaves received word they were free in 1865.

During the Finally Friday event the evening before, Juneteenth was commemorated by I’Zalon Williams giving the Gettysburg Address and The Laurens Mass Choir sharing music.

Saturday brought even more education and entertainment.

“I thought it was a phenomenal commemoration of Juneteenth and it had so many highlights,” said Cassandra Campbell, City of Laurens Councilwoman. “From our emcees to the Buffalo Soldiers with us, our speakers and our churches coming together whether through dance or song. We learned more about taking care of our bodies and being respectful of our financial responsibilities.”

Minister Ralph Miller read the emancipation proclamation and Dseimber Rose shared spoken word throughout the day.

Additional speakers included Dr. Marion Smith, Exhibit Coordinator at The Museum and Nurse Practitioner Brittany Roman.

Saxophonist Darius Starks, The Libation West African Drumming and Dance Group, the 864 Linedance Crew and Minister Ryan Bolden and Purposed for Greatness choir brought a variety of music to the celebration.

Vendors brought in crafts, food and additional entertainment – some of which reached far beyond the City of Laurens.

Campbell said it was important to the Juneteenth committee that although fun and entertainment is shared, there’s an educational component as well.

“In order for us to move forward as a community we have to be educated and that comes in different levels and different aspects of our lives,” Campbell said. “I feel it is my responsibility given all the beautiful and hard things I’ve been exposed to in my life that we expose our citizens to different elements of life that will help us all be better.”

Mayor Nathan Senn congratulated all involved, including the Juneteenth committee and members of the police department and city staff for a successful event at the Tuesday evening council meeting.

“I was proud that it was not just a community organizational effort but something we could collaborate on and facilitate as a city,” Senn said. “From Memorial Day to Flag Day to Juneteenth to the Fourth of July, we are in a season to celebrate our freedom in this country. As a city, not only do we hope our celebrations get better and better but that we continue to pursue the ideals set forth in our constitution.”

Campbell hopes the event continues to grow and the importance of Juneteenth becomes more widely recognized.

“Juneteenth is just as vital as the Fourth of July. If it weren’t for the enslaved folks, we wouldn’t be where we are as a country. We, as a country have a lot to be grateful for and have a big responsibility,” Campbell said.