APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) — Sunday afternoon, a crowd flocked to Jones Park in Appleton to celebrate Juneteenth.

“Black folks got free with the emancipation proclamation,” Dr. Bola Delano, Co-Founder of African Heritage Inc. said, “but would you believe, the ones done in Texas did not even hear about it two years later? And that’s what Juneteenth is all about.”

Juneteenth is observed officially on June 19th.

The early day of celebration was hosted by African Heritage, Inc.

“We are still advocating and struggling for full freedom,” Dr. Delano said. “So today, we are celebrating our struggles, we are celebrating our survival, we are celebrating our liberation.”

They also celebrated accomplishment.

“We are going to be doing a black students graduation celebration in honor of black excellence,” Dr. Delano said.

A group of 2021 graduates were presented with certificates and recognized with a ceremony.

“Being recognized today and spoke out in front of all of these people…feels really good,” Dasia Maniece, a graduate of Appleton East High School said.

For Maniece, and her friend and fellow Appleton East graduate Shaliyah Beckum, the ceremony marked a milestone in their lives, and for their families.

“I’m thankful for this opportunity,” Beckum said. “I will be the first graduate in my family.”

Maniece added, “I’m the first graduate in my family as well.”

The day was one of both celebration and advocacy.

“We continue to deal with the, with the pandemic of racism and then, in the last year, we are also dealing with the pandemic of Covid-19,” Dr. Delano said.

Organizers encouraged attendees to head up to the Fox Cities Exhibition Center to receive their coronavirus vaccine.

“We’re asking folks to please go out there and get the shot so we can save more lives,” Dr. Delano said.

She says it’s another opportunity to make a difference.

“There’s a need for all of us to come together as a community and advocate for equality for everybody in America,” Dr. Delano said.