Jun. 18—MARIETTA — Hundreds of visitors, community members and activists alike flocked to the Marietta Square to celebrate Juneteenth in Glover Park during the weekend, marking the Cobb County NAACP's 19th annual Juneteenth celebration.
Former Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner was enjoying music and a fresh piece of watermelon at the celebration mid-morning Saturday in the company of her family. Festivities had officially kicked off in the square the night before, Bonner said, and despite a little rain, nothing could deter visitors from congregating together. This year's celebration in Marietta has attracted more vendors, performers and guests than previous years, she said.
"It was phenomenal. I mean, it was phenomenal," she said. "I think God came past through here. Every nook and cranny of this square was taken. ... I think because of COVID, everybody was so glad to get out. And it was it was beautiful for me and the NAACP of Juneteenth."
Juneteenth is the celebration of the liberation of enslaved people of color in the United States and marks the anniversary when news of the abolishment of slavery reached enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865. Last year, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, which established Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Bonner said the event isn't just about the singing and dancing, but fulfilling the purpose of the NAACP — unity and justice.
"It's about really knowing your history. And we're happy about that," she said.
Tom Signs with the City of Marietta Fire Marshal's Office said he speculated hundreds were in attendance by 4 p.m. Saturday, but he expected more to come once the temperature cooled.
Toni Merritt said she was attending the festival for the first time from Toccoa. She said the Cobb NAACP honored her cousin, Bo Hayes, who helped organize the first Juneteenth celebration 19 years ago and passed away last year. Hayes used to set up a stand of barbecue every year at the Juneteenth celebration and is fondly remembered, Bonner said.
"I like the way they everybody's come together," Merritt said.
Kathina Williams, a vendor selling bath salts and advertising her Zumba classes at the event, said this was her first time celebrating Juneteenth. She said she was nearly sold out off all her natural, organic spa products by mid-afternoon.
"(Juneteenth is) just about celebrating our freedom as African Americans ... taking it back to really knowing what the importance of being free is," she said. "And that's just great to have a lot to celebrate today."
For Bonner, Juneteenth and its growth in celebrations across the country means history will be well-known for future generations. Until 19 years ago, Bonner said she had never heard of Juneteenth until a secretary from Texas joined the Cobb NAACP.
"What it means to me is that it won't have to be a story that I would have to tell my grandson," she said. "He knows that story. And that will probably be the satisfaction of Juneteenth coming full circle."
Bonner said the crowd was diverse, reaching across all areas of life, race and even political party.
"I think the true sense of being here says that, 'I understand what you went through,'" she said. "And so now we have went through that. And let's all know that we got to live on this earth together in order for it to succeed."