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This Saturday's local Juneteenth celebration won't be the same as in the past, but organizers said the event is more relevant now than ever.

As we recently reported, Juneteenth celebrates the day in 1865 when Major Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which President Abraham Lincoln had signed to free all slaves — two years after the declaration was signed.

Rather than a physical festival-like celebration, the event will consist of a motorcade, followed by a virtual celebration. The change has been made to comply with social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Event co-founder Gwen Edmonson said Juneteenth has more importance than ever this year because of the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd in police custody.

"This gives us a platform to further advance our cause in educating the public on the trouble of the black people that has been going on," she said. "It's very important."

The "Journey For Justice" motorcade will honor Floyd by lasting for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time the police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck while Floyd pleaded for air.

The motorcade will begin at noon Saturday in the 400 block of West Main Street in the state parking lot across from the Red Wheel Bike Shop, then proceed through a set route to end at Lincoln University.

Just before the end, the motorcade will pause in front of the Soldiers' Memorial at LU, which honors the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantries that founded the university.

The virtual events will begin at 1 p.m. and can be accessed via the Juneteenth-Jefferson City website or Facebook page.

They will include a program that honors the military; a Faith and Spirituality Panel Discussion; awarding of a scholarship to a Jefferson City High School graduate; entertainers and a presentation on black history; and a tribute to fathers.

With the pain and divisiveness in our country right now, we need to come together to attempt to understand each other more now than ever.

Juneteenth is something that should be celebrated not just by black people, but by everyone. We encourage you to join in the celebration, even if that means just watching for a few minutes with your family huddled around a laptop.

News Tribune

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