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What Juneteenth means to Morganton residents
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What Juneteenth means to Morganton residents

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The Burke County Branch of the NAACP on Saturday partnered with the city of Morganton’s Human Relations Commission and the Burke Arts Council to celebrate Juneteenth at CoMMA. Juneteenth, now a federally recognized holiday, is the anniversary of the day 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was made, and was the first time slaves in Galveston, Texas, found out they were free. The News Herald asked some attendees Saturday what Juneteenth meant to them.

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Angela Robertson, left, said Juneteenth means freedom to her. “You know, this is something that we’ve been fighting for for a long time” Her friend, Jackie Coffey, right, agreed. “It’s this really, really great moment that we’ve lived to see that we never thought we would ever see, so it’s really like a weight that’s been lifted to know what our family went through, and we’re able to say that we made it. We made it.” Maddie Freeman, Coffey’s granddaughter, sat between the two while they spoke with The News Herald at the Juneteenth event at CoMMA on Saturday.

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Malik Harris, left, and Bria Corpening are members of the Burke County State of Youth. “To me, Juneteenth is just a significance of freedom for us as African Americans, you know, it’s always been hard for African Americans. Now as a federal holiday, it shows that we have come this far by faith and that we will not turn around ... we’ll continue to march forward.” Corpening said it means everything to her. “If stuff like this weren’t to happen, where would we, as African Americans, be, you know?”

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Kylen Caldwell, right, and Nanier Caldwell attended the event Saturday. For them, Juneteenth was summed up with one word: “Freedom.”

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Lashonda Odum, right, said besides the significance of slaves gaining their freedom, it goes back to some of her ancestry. “I have history that my great-grandmother married a Black man and she was Irish, and I also have some Cherokee Indian on my side, so that also emancipates every race from being slaves, and that has been a good thing.” Tanya White said it sparks a conversation about race relations in the United States. “It feels good, the celebration, the recognition of Juneteenth and what it means as far as the end of slavery, but to me it’s really the beginning of conversations, and needed conversations, around race and what that means, systemic racism and what all that means. I just think it’s not the end all, be all, of course, but it’s a good first step.”

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Robert Pearson said he wanted to see more representation in local governments, businesses, law enforcement and beyond because he said too often it seems like people in those positions are only white. “Things like that have got to change. That’s where I’m coming from, to make this town more better for all people. Not just one race of people, all people.”

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Valarie Tate said it draws awareness to prominent issues all over the country. “Even though sometimes our freedoms are not as we expect, or we’re not as free as we want to be, but my freedom’s in the Lord. God’s made me free, but we all want and need our civil rights. We expect them and we should have them. This day let’s us know that they’re aware that we’re here, that we’re people, and we are people. We don’t want to separate it, but this is the day we established, I guess you would say, our true freedom.”

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