SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) People came together on Tybee Island to wade in the water to celebrate Juneteenth.
People across the country are celebrating Juneteenth and its significance in American history. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson ordered June 19 to be an official city holiday as well as leaders in Bluffton and Statesboro.
Commemorative events are happening both locally and out on Tybee Island where community members gathered for the Fifth Annual Juneteenth Wade-In, led by the Tybee MLK Human Rights Organization.
Committee members said June 19s significance in history serves as the nations true independence day.
It took over 88 years after the War for Independence before all American people were free.
Julia Pearce, the coordinator for Tybee Islands Juneteenth commemoration and jubilee, said on July 4th, 1776, 20 percent of the colonists were still enslaved.
This is an American holiday, said Pearce. We are American people and we are asking everyone to come together. And this holiday is a Jubilee Day for everybody to come together.
Pearce said black soldiers who fought in the war were fighting for their freedoms too, but that day wouldnt come until June 19, 1865.
The truth can actually liberate us if we allow it, said Pearce. We can hold hands and look at the truth together. Hold hands, and look at it together. And thats what were going to do.
Patt Gunn, a Gullah Geechee storyteller led community members out on North Beach into the watersymbolic of the first wade-in which was led by some college students from Savannah State University in the 60s.
During that time, African Americans on Tybee Island were restricted by law from going into the Atlantic Ocean.
The wade-in was both a movement of protest, and a demonstration. Among the group was former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson.
African Americans celebrate America just like everybody else and so weve been coming to the fourth of July knowing that the fourth of July really wasnt freedom for us. It wasnt freedom for us but its celebrated as a freedom day so we should actually have a freedom day thats for everyone, so thats what Juneteenth is about, Pearce stated.
Musicians performed Kumbaya and other native Gullah songs. Gunn addressed the crowd and told stories about Tybee Islands Wade-In history.
NAACP Vice President Chad Mance was the special speaker at the eventcalling for Juneteenth to be made an official holiday on the island: If you cant stand in solidarity to the freedom of all men, you cant stand in solidarity to the freedom of some.
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