A celebration of African-American heritage included music, food and family fun at the 24th annual Juneteenth Festival on Saturday at Lincoln Park.

Sponsored by the Tracy African American Association, the annual festival marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, the date when black slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned that the Civil War had ended and they were free. They celebrated the news with song, dance and food, a tradition that has been carried on as part of Juneteenth celebrations throughout the United States.

“It is important we recognize our ancestors and the fact that many people fought, bled and died, that we might be free and be able to live in this country as 100 percent equal human beings,” said Dr. Clara Styles, president of the association. “This is a wonderful time to come out and celebrate our heritage and our culture.”

One of the highlights of the festival was the presentation of this year’s Wayne Nelson Academic Scholarship winners: Montunrayo Ayomide of Kimball High School, ZaJria Bradshaw of Mountain House High School, Malik Frazer of Millennium High School, Shaelyn Hawkins of Tracy High School, Kaiya Ransom of Kimball High School, Mila Rodriguez of Millennium High School, Tyler Williams of Modesto Christian High School, Dariae Willis of Kimball High School and Nathaniel Young of West High School.

Styles said it is the TAAA’s belief that education levels the playing field. She said the association wants to encourage young people and help them understand that they can become anything they want to be.

In addition to performances by local musicians and a fashion show, festival-goers were treated to a variety of merchandise vendors and food booths.

Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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