African Americans Black
Mayor Todd Gloria, center, celebrates Juneteenth as the holiday flag is raised at City Hall. Photo credit: @MayorToddGloria, via Twitter

Councilwomen Monica Montgomery Steppe and Marni von Wilpert, a city Black Advisory Group, and members of the public on Friday joined Mayor Todd Gloria to declare Juneteenth in San Diego.

“As African Americans, we must preserve our culture and teach our history, including the true meaning of Juneteenth,” said Montgomery Steppe, the sole Black San Diego council member.

Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Tex. on June 19, 1865 and announced to more than 250,000 enslaved Blacks that they were free by executive decree.

President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday into law Thursday.

“Juneteenth marks the day freedom was realized for Black slaves in this country,” Gloria said. “Though it was over 100 years ago, our Black community still wades through the traumatic effects of slavery and its residue of injustice.” Gloria said.

“I’m grateful to see the steps we’re making as a city and a nation toward righting the wrongs done toward our Black community,” he added. “Proclaiming Juneteenth shows that we acknowledge and recognize the importance of celebrating freedom.”

Historically, Juneteenth has been celebrated at City Hall with a presentation by the District 4 council member and the San Diego City Black Employees Association.

This year, officials raised a flag to commemorate Juneteenth at City Hall.

Montgomery Steppe noted that the community is “still fighting for the Juneteenth promise of liberation and equity for all African Americans,” while adding that in the U.S. “there is a history of commercializing and diluting the significance of historical events and erasing African Americans from the history books.”

“Today’s ceremony is more than a symbolic gesture at City Hall,” she said. “It is about preserving our history and telling our own stories.”