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Juneteenth to celebrate freedom day

Community leaders of Wasco will host their second annual Juneteenth event on Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Barker Park.

Juneteenth is a holiday that takes place on June 19 to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

Organizing the special day are community members made up of elementary school teachers from the district and church leaders from the three African American churches in town, including True Light Baptist Church, Apostolic Faith Temple Church and Macedonia Church.

One of the organizers is Marcus Ballard, a teacher at Palm Avenue Middle School and an assistant pastor at New Generation Church.

Ballard teaches 6th grade history and has a passion for it. He hopes to instill a love of history in his students and community, and this will be an occasion to do just that.

"I especially want our younger generations to learn about and not forget their history. All cultures in Wasco are connected. The foundation of this town started in agriculture, where all cultures worked in the fields together to help build Wasco. Now we see the fruit of that today."

Ballard said his team is organizing the event again to showcase the holiday, which was established locally last year. It is also a platform to honor the rich Black history of Wasco.

"Last year was amazing. Assemblymember [Rudy] Salas came and recognized our three churches and pastors. Vendors sold food and items pertaining to African American culture. The student choir provided entertainment. Poems were read. Speakers, including from local colleges, gave words of inspiration," said Ballard.

"These elements will be brought back for the community of Wasco to enjoy."

This year the focus is on promoting healthy lifestyles, and booths will be set up to share information on that theme. Dignity Health will be there with its team of advocates.

There also will be numerous schools and nonprofits on hand offering options for youth post-high school, such as Bakersfield College and CSU Bakersfield.

Another component will be a pop-up, where vendors will sell African American-themed art and original craft items, clothes and jewelry.

"This is a way to support our small businesses," Ballard said .

There will be live performances, guest speakers and gospel music.

An assortment of food will be sold, including barbecue, tri-tip, fried fish, tacos, burritos, ribs, desserts and drinks.

"We invite the community to stop by for an afternoon of fun, great music, food and culture. All are welcome no matter who you are," said Ballard. "It will be an opportunity for Wasco to shine in a gathering that will highlight all the positivity our town has to offer."

For more information or to join as a vendor, call Ballard at 805-636-8931.


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