It’s not the Fourth of July yet, but there’s a celebration of freedom going on at the Marietta Square.

The Cobb County Chapter of the NAACP’s 16th annual Juneteenth festival continues through Sunday with food, artisans and live music.

Cobb NAACP President Jeriene Bonner-Grimes said the holiday dates back to June 19, 1865, when troops arrived to Galveston, Texas, to enforce the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had gone into effect two years earlier but was not being carried out there.

“It commemorates the end of slavery, when the slaves in Texas got the news late that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed,” she said. “They were late to be notified, and the celebrated when they found out. It celebrates freedom, a commemoration of freedom.”

As crowds browsed the booths lining the Square, hundreds gathered in Glover Park to listen to music and dance. Speaking to the MDJ from behind the stage, Toi Hines, statewide office manager for the Georgia NAACP, said no Juneteenth celebration in the state compares to Cobb’s.

“None by far,” she said. “They have some, but none by far. I’ve been coming here for about seven years now, celebrating with the Cobb County NAACP, and it’s been awesome. All the people come together, all walks of life just come together in the Square to have a good time and put all your issues aside, just come together as one.”

While the DJ was on stage encouraging people to get up and dance, Marietta mother and daughter Lanette Davis and Brianna Southerland were pushing a stroller down the street, pausing to admire the colorful garments and handmade jewelry on display.

Davis, a business analyst, said she’s glad Marietta is host to the annual event.

“I think it’s great because I haven’t really heard of anything else in the area, other than Stone Mountain doing something at the mall. This is the second year that I’ve known about it, and it’s really great to get more information out so our younger generation can learn more about what happened back then and how far we’ve come along.”

Southerland, a stay-at-home mom, said her favorite part is meeting all the vendors and other festival-goers.

“I love all the booths bringing everybody out to come not only enjoy family time, but also connect with other people and see their experiences,” she said. “I could potentially find a babysitter for my daughter right now, being out here, and that’s just from being able to connect with all the different people that are out here bringing their crafts to life.”

One of those vendors, Janet Arnold Savage, owner of Jan’s Hair Boutique, was demonstrating different hair products for interested passersby.

Savage said just seeing all the smiling black faces on the Square made her proud.

“This is the very same Square that, when I was a kid, my grandmother would say ‘Don’t go up on the Square because the Klans are out,’ and here we are today, majority black on the Square in Marietta,” she said. “America is great.”

Juneteenth is free to attend and continues Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. with a Father’s Day celebration and the sounds of award-winning gospel singer Dottie Peoples. For more information, visit cobbnaacp.org.

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