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Wasco celebrates freedom, healing and hope at Juneteenth

Hundreds gathered for Wasco's third annual Juneteenth celebration at Barket Park on Saturday, enjoying food, music and fellowship.

Whitney Ballard, a member of the Juneteenth Celebration committee, said that this year was bigger and better, with a full music program and activities for the whole family..

"We have speakers, performers, some great food, a bunch of vendors with a good variety of products. We have it all this year," Ballard said.

Congressman David Valadao made an appearance, along with Mayor Alex Garcia.

Pastor Steve Major, from Los Angeles, kicked off the entertainment with a rousing rendition of "Keep Your Peace," followed by a music program that included singers from several churches in Wasco, as well as entertainers from all over Kern County.

A big reason for the event is to educate the next generation on the importance of the holiday, as well as uniting the community, no matter what race or denomination you are," Marcus Ballard, a pastor and teacher in Wasco, said. "Part of the celebration is remembering where we came from."

Ballard also said that the celebration was for the entire community. "It doesn't matter if you are black, white, Hispanic – it just doesn't matter. We are here to enjoy this day of fun, food and freedom."

Ballard said that the committee had started planning the event months ago. "We had members who were in charge of the music program, one for the outreach program, another for the vendors. It really is a big family and team effort."

There was also a great message at the event. Not only was it a day to celebrate freedom, unity and hope, it was also a day to help the next generation remember where they came from, and the amazing people and efforts that have come before them.

Among the groups at the event was ShePower, a nonprofit organization that aims their efforts at the young women of Wasco and the rest of Kern County. Based in Bakersfield, the group has outreach programs that target cities as Wasco, Shafter, Delano and other outlying Kern County cities, helping to bring up a strong and powerful generation of young women. "We have mentorship programs, tutoring, leadership programs, confidence building, and other programs that help these young women succeed," said Nayeli Ceja. Ceja and Awjahnai Bradford, of ShePower, were on hand to answer questions and spread the word of their efforts.

"This really is a perfect day," said Ceja. "We are celebrating freedom and unity, and our organization champions those traits and goals for everyone."


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