June 19, 1865, is labeled the birth of Juneteenth
Several hundred prisoners were drawn to San Quentin’s Lower Yard by a historical account of Juneteenth, the music of inmate-bands and several rappers. The host kept the audience engaged in the extravaganza with comedy and a Father’s Day message.
It was five hours of celebratory entertainment acknowledging the holiday.
Watani Stiner gave a historical account of the origin and significance of Juneteenth called “Juneteenth: A Celebration of Historical Ignorance.”
“We can always be a father to someone who doesn’t have a father”
Stiner said news of the Emancipation Proclamation decree issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, abolishing slavery, “as a military strategy” in the Confederate states, took 2 ½ years to reach the enslaved Africans of Texas. They got the news on June 19, 1865, the birth of Juneteenth.
“So, let this Juneteenth celebration today be more than a remembrance of what the enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas did not know,” said Stiner. “Let us, instead celebrate what we do know, and what we do know is that we have a responsibility and an obligation to remember and learn from our history. Let us remember the sacrifices we’ve made, the obstacles we’ve overcome, and the struggles we must continue to wage in order to move human history forward.”
The music included the jazz of “We Came to Play,” the funk of “NSF,” and the blues of “Cold Blue Steel.”
Several rappers performed, touching subjects such as the Civil Rights movement, personal experiences and moving forward while retaining a historical perspective.
As the men-in-blue made their way to the makeshift stage, emcee Aaron Taylor reminded the men the day was also Father’s Day. He blessed the event with a prayer and shared a few poignant words about fatherhood.
“Fatherhood is situational,” he said. “We can always be a father to someone who doesn’t have a father.”
In closing the event, Taylor returned to the stage and delivered a few humorous updates on San Quentin sports and displayed his rapping skills.