Documentaries capture Houston voices celebrating Juneteenth

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Four years after the debut of the first of three short documentary films focused on Houston's historical celebrations of Juneteenth, the film continues to highlight the significance of June 19.

"I'm honored to be involved in paying homage," said Pat Jasper, a folklorist who came up with the project.

The films were shown in conjunction with Houston's annual Juneteenth celebrations at the Miller Outdoor Theater in 2016 and 2018.

WHAT IS JUNETEENTH? Read up on the history

Several prominent Houstonians, like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Mayor Sylvester Turner, share their memories of growing up celebrating the holiday and other local community members, like Ruby Mosley, talk about the significance of the date for the African American community.

Jasper, who is not part of the African American community, enlisted the help of longtime ABC13 reporter and Houstonian Melanie Lawson to conduct some of the interviews featured in the films.

Juneteenth is described as Independence Day for African Americans in the United States, who were not granted freedom until 90 years after the founding of the country.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed all slaves, but there were not enough Union soldiers in Texas to enforce the proclamation.

Two and a half years later, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived with soldiers in Galveston on June 19, 1865 and shared the news of freedom and had the ability to enforce it, freeing slaves in Texas.

The films examine how the observation and celebration of the date has evolved over the years in Houston.

With the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and protests happening across the country, Jasper feels it's especially important for everyone to listen to voices captured in the films.

"Part of joining in the struggle is being there, not necessarily to take charge, but being there and hearing and listening," Jasper said. "Supporting and advocating as an ally alongside the rest of our community."

To watch the films, visit the following three YouTube links.

A Celebration of Freedom - Part 1

A Celebration of Freedom - Part 2

A Gulf Coast Juneteenth

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From celebrations to memories, this day stands out.

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