Juneteenth celebrations resonate in Austin amidst Charleston shooting tragedy
As the nation mourns the loss of the Charleston shooting victims, Juneteenth celebrations go on in Austin and across Texas. Falling just two days after the massacre, Travis County officials say this Juneteenth celebration, will resound in the hearts of many.
An echo of celebration resonates from a parking garage in downtown Austin. A stark contrast from what was, just two days ago. The nation, stunned by what police say was 21-year Dylann Roof's decision to gun down nine people at a church bible study.
"It's a sad situation, but it's kind of like, I hate harping on bad situations, I like looking at the positive," said Lashonda Reese, Juneteenth guest.
As this year's Juneteenth celebration in Austin continues. The events in Charleston burdens the hearts of many like Lashonda Reese.
"It's sad and I feel for what they're going through," said Reese.
The church massacre only seems to fuel the spirits of Austinites, to unite as one in the midst of tragedy.
"It gives us an opportunity to come together neighbor to neighbor arm in arm and stand against the terrorist act," said Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Judge.
Just down the road at Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, a crowd of various races, genders, and denominations join together to pray.
"We don't want rioting, we want prayer, we want unity, we want peace," said Henrietta Sullivan-Mkwanazi, Co-Pastor, Metropolitan A.M.E. Church.
The church in East Austin is still in shock by the suspect's decision to kill. Mkwanazi and her husband say they'll use this tragedy as an opportunity to bring Austin together.
"We believe that unity will come, hatred will be stamped out," said Mkwanazi.
Juneteenth reminds Texans of the word of that freedom had come to slaves in the state. In the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, many feel there's still a long way to go.
"We want to replace bigotry with equal treatment of men and women," said Ron Davis, Travis County Commissioner, Precinct I.
"Freedom is very precious, even the freedom to worship," said Davis.
A celebration and tragedy, reminding Texans and the nation, that freedom certainly isn't free.
There will be a Juneteenth parade Saturday morning at 10:00 at Comal Street and MLK Boulevard.