FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – The beating of drums and the raising of the flag, marked the beginning of Juneteenth celebrations in Fresno. This is the first year it is being celebrated as a national holiday.

“This year is a federal holiday and the City of Fresno embraced it and it became a whole week long celebration,” said Michaleynn Lewis, an organizer for the event.

The holiday, celebrated with a parade, music, food and a sharing of their culture. The African American Museum opened for the special occasion, the work of local artist on display.

“I’ve also been very interested in stories written very interested in what has happened in our culture, how we have grown as a people. While we still need to overcome and progress with how our community can continue to grow,” with Nefesha Ruth, a Fresno artist.

Understanding the importance of Juneteenth involves knowing our history, American history.

On January 1st, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, establishing that all enslaved people in the confederate states shall be free.

The proclamation didn’t apply to all states, including Texas. It wasn’t until June 19th, 1865 when union soldiers rode into Galveston, Texas, telling  more than 250,000 enslaved Black people that they too were free that day became known as Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth to me means it’s the day that freedom came from my ancestors and my people who were here who were cultivating this land who were bringing prosperity to this land but they were not given the freedoms as everyone else,” said Dr. Angie Barfield, an adminstrator at FCSS.

Barfield with office of the Fresno County Superintedent of Schools says that amid all the celebrating it’s important to also use the holiday to educate.

“Our superintendent, our leader Jim Yovino strongly believes in empowering and educating not just Black students but all students about the value, about the history about the culture of our African American students,”

It is the reason brandie todd brought her two children to see the parade and take in the activities at the convention center.

“I think it’s important for my girls to know a little bit about their heritage,” said Brandie Todd, who attended the celebration.

The celebration took place over four days.

The convention center in downtown Fresno was packed with vendors. It was a showcase for local African American businesses and organizations, an opportunity for the community to come together.

“After all the celebrating it is the history behind Juneteenth that organizers hope the public will not forget.