TYLER, Texas (KETK) — The Juneteenth Association of Tyler kicked off holiday weekend celebrations on Friday evening with a Gospel Bridge concert at Bergfeld Park.

The event featured multiple gospel groups and speakers from around the city, including Nancy & Praise, North Tenneha Male Chorus, Marvin United Methodist Choir, Tyler Community Choir, Dominique Ellis, Grace Worship Team, George Faber and People’s Missionary Baptist Church. Here, a large, diverse group of families gathered to take part in worship, fellowship and dinner, which was provided by the JAT.

Juneteenth marks the day that the last slaves in Texas learned that they were free, on June 19, 1865, almost three years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Though the holiday has been celebrated for generations, it became officially recognized as a federal holiday in June of 2021.

Marcus Jackson, pastor for the People’s Missionary Baptist Church, said that he believes that Juneteenth is about more than just the Emancipation Proclamation, that it also represents how “the Lord delivered us from bondage.”

“Celebrating Christ and worshipping together, that’s the most important part,” he said of what he believes to be significant about Juneteenth. “I truly believe that this could only happen under the tutelage of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is just the first of several events for the holiday weekend. On Saturday, the annual Juneteenth Parade will take place, starting at 10 a.m. on Martin Luther King Boulevard and will end at Woldert Park, where there will be free drinks and hot dogs, as well as various booths and fun for children.

Then, later on Saturday at 8 p.m., there will be a Juneteenth and Custom Truckers Western Dance at the Majesty Event Center.