COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia hosted a Juneteenth parade and celebration Saturday morning.

The parade began at 10:00 a.m. at the First Baptist Church and people walked down Broadway towards the Second Baptist Church.

The Juneteenth celebration was held at Douglass Park immediately after the parade.

Authorities placed a rolling street closure at 9:00 a.m. and lifted it after the parade ended.

Local organizations gathered at Douglass Park to showcase their groups alongside karaoke, dancing and food.

Community leaders joined the Juneteenth Celebrations, including Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe, who gave a speech discussing the importance of Juneteenth for the community.

Maurice Gipson is the vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity at the University of Missouri. He rode through the parade in an old firetruck and he said Juneteenth marks a huge moment for many people.

"So the beautiful thing about Juneteenth is that while it certainly commemorates the complete ending of enslaved people in this country in 1866, what it means at its core is freedom," Gipson said.

Juneteenth is the United States' newest federal holiday. Gipson said the federal recognition is very significant.

"When the federal government decides to recognize it as a federal holiday, which you know, there are only a few of those, it really meant that all right, we've we've taken notice of our past," Gipson said. "And we want to symbolize that this is not only important for black Americans, but for all Americans."

Dalona Betts participated in the parade with her dancing group, 360 stars. She said her group has worked hard to put on a good show in the parade.

"We had to wake up at seven o'clock in the morning to get to the studio at around eight. And we practiced our hardest come out here," Betts said.

Betts was among several groups in the parade that had various dancing and musical routines. She said parades like this allow people to show off their hard work.

"I believe [the purpose] is to express the emotions and feelings, and be themselves, and be creative," Betts said.

John Fields is one of the four executive directors for the Columbia Juneteenth Celebration. Juneteenth holds a special meaning for him as well.

"It gave me the opportunity to be who I am today," Fields said. "You know, a lot of people don't realize that the opportunities that the doors that were open for a lot of people of color."

Fields said that Juneteenth allows for another day to recognize black history. He said over 90 groups participated in the downtown parade.

"There's a lot of work, a lot of meetings, a lot of morning meetings at nine o'clock at Panera Bread and drinking coffee and trying to get these things worked out," Fields said.

Fields simply described Juneteenth as "joy." 

Communities and organizations around Columbia gathered to support diversity as a whole. Fields said Juneteenth is a day for everyone.

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