CHEYENNE – Dozens of residents and community activists gathered at Cheyenne’s East High on Saturday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

The NAACP’s annual Juneteenth celebration featured prayers, food, basketball and other family-friendly events to encourage historical reflection here and throughout the country.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger led troops to Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended, and slaves were now free. This was more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – there were not enough Union troops in the state to enforce Lincoln’s order right away. Roughly 250,000 Texan slaves didn’t know their freedom had been guaranteed for years.

Now, Juneteenth is the oldest-known celebration honoring the end of slavery in America. Events across the country often include parades and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation. Both Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr issued proclamations in honor of Saturday’s observance.

“We’ve been doing Juneteenth for 15 years in Cheyenne,” local NAACP Chapter President Stephen Latham said. “This is the first year we’ve held it at East High. There were conflicts at Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Holliday Park, so the principal let us use the school.”

Cheyenne Platinum Basketball organized a 3-on-3 tournament in the East High gym, too. Bridget Corbin and her husband started Cheyenne Platinum 12 years ago to give local kids a chance to play at no cost.

“Our kids play for free and the community supports us,” Corbin said. “We receive donations and host fundraising events. So, to give back, we host the three-on-three tournament and all proceeds go to the NAACP. It’s great exercise and it brings people together.”

Some in attendance said Juneteenth is more relevant than ever, citing ongoing violence and profiling directed at African-Americans nationwide.

“It’s a multi-generational celebration,” said 19-year-old Dante Holmes. “My grandma and I see it through different cultural lenses, but it’s still a tumultuous time in America for many of us. I think the best protest sometimes is just to be happy and thrive.”

Latham agreed. He added that America has a knack for repeating history.

“We can’t forget,” he said. “This is the greatest country in the world, but we still have a ways to go. We forget things. This is a way to bring us together. We live in America and we need to be inclusive. It’s about having fun together, as one.”

Chrissy Suttles is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s business and health reporter. She can be reached at csuttles@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3183. Follow her on Twitter at @chrissysuttles.

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