AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Third-grader Brandon Martines gave the audience a brief history of Juneteenth, reciting from memory. He explained that on June 19, 1865, “250,000 slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free.” These were the last slaves to be freed on the orders of President Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War had been won by the North, Martines said. Greenidge said that African Americans have been celebrating Juneteenth ever since. “July 4, 1776, is American Independence Day, but that did not apply to African Americans, because they were slaves. When Americans celebrate Independence Day, they’re celebrating their independence from Britain, but when African Americans celebrate Juneteenth, they’re celebrating freedom in a place where they should have already been free.” The event proved to be an educational experience for students, parents and teachers, many of whom had never heard of Juneteenth. NORWALK – Juneteenth is the anniversary of the day in 1865 when the last group of enslaved African Americans were made aware of their rightful freedom at the end of the Civil War, and the third-graders at Julia B. Morrison Elementary’s African History Club are teaching people what it means to celebrate it. “This is the first annual Juneteenth Jubilee,” said Diahann “Nzinga” Greenidge, third- grade teacher and coordinator of Morrison’s African History Club. “We are going to plan to do this every year.” The event was planned and performed by the school’s African History Club. The celebration began with traditional songs, poetry and dancing, including the spiritual “We Shall Overcome,” and an Afro-Caribbean dance called “Moving.” “I didn’t know anything about it until my daughter told me about it,” said Jeanette Carver, whose daughter Julissa participated in the performance. “I thought it was something they made up at school.” Carver said that when Julissa asked her whether she had learned about Juneteenth when she was in school, she had to tell her “no.” “When I was growing up, I was embarrassed about my culture, but now I tell her, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed about it,” she said. Carver, who is of Mexican and Filipino descent, said that when she was a child, cultural diversity was not stressed or thought of positively. She is glad that her daughter has grown up in a different atmosphere. Myisha Haven, whose daughter Breana Barry read Useni Eugene Perkins’ poem, “Hey Black Child,” said she was also surprised when she found out that Juneteenth was an actual holiday based on a historical event. “I didn’t know what it was until I heard about it on the radio,” she said. Now, she thinks that the family will begin celebrating it annually. Greenidge was not surprised to learn that many had never heard of Juneteenth. “African-American history is often excluded from textbooks,” she said. “The history of the United States isn’t always pretty.” She said learning about African-American history is not always as easy as it should be. African Americans “have to be seekers, because it’s not going to be just given to them.” Morrison Principal Marsha Guerrero had no knowledge of Juneteenth prior to the celebration at her school. “I am excited. I got to learn about something I didn’t know about, and I hope Mrs. Greenidge will make it an annual event,” Guerrero said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!