Many people think of July 4 as Independence Day.
But Marilyn Jackson, chairwoman for the Savannah chapter of Daughters of Mary Magdalene, says Juneteenth is just as important when you talk about the history of independence in our country.
"Juneteenth is the day we all became free," Jackson said.
Also known as Emancipation Day, the holiday is recognized June 19 and commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, the last state to emancipate slaves, in 1865.
For almost 15 years, the Daughters of Mary Magdalene have sponsored the annual Juneteenth Celebration. Jackson said the group "aims to bring awareness to historical education and political issues in our community."
"We are an awareness group and we want to bring awareness to the people and educate the youth. We want to give everyone a free education in Juneteenth 101," Jackson said.
This year's celebration will take place June 29 at the 38th Street Park.
"We are going to be outside like the slaves were," Jackson said.
The location of the park is also important to the group's focus to make the event accessible to the people they want to target with their message.
"The park is significant because that's where our urban community is - 37th, 38th and 39th streets," Jackson said.
"People always ask why we don't do the celebration at Forsyth Park or River Street, but some people don't have the means to get to those places.
"Juneteenth is an event about culture, and we bring the culture to the people and not the other way around."
The celebration will begin at 10 a.m. with a traditional Juneteenth ceremony welcome and prayer.
About 10:30 a.m., the six honorees will arrive by motorcade.
"The honorees will take limos from the Civic Center and arrive at the park," Jackson said. "It will be something people will want to witness."
"This year, we plan to honor a really fine group of people for their service to our community," she said. "Our honorees include Lester Lec'k White, former host of Family Gospel on E93."
According to Jackson, this appearance by White marks his official return to the public platform since he took a three-year sabbatical leave followed by his diagnosis of a damaged esophagus, which causes him to lose his voice or speak in a whisper.
Jackson said White calls his return at the festival "a new lease on life."
Other honorees include Chico and the Soulful Riders.
"... They help families who lose their homes to fire, help single moms pay their rent and help out other folks in need," Jackson said.
"We will also honor Mrs. Brunette Mitchell-Dixon. She was one of the first black females on the integrated sheriff's department.
"Mrs. Brenda Roberts is also on the list. She is a teacher, author and philanthropist who provides school clothes and Christmas presents to needy children. She's really a secret angel because no one really knows what all she does for people.
"We also have Beach High coach Ronald Booker, who is retiring in June after 35 years with the girls' basketball team.
"And the last honoree is a special little girl who is only 9 years old," Jackson said.
"Her name is Flau'Jae and she's an inspirational rapper who raps about anti-bullying. She's a positive role model for young girls."
Jackson also added that state Sen. Lester Jackson, Larry "Gator" Rivers from the Harlem Globetrotters, Coach Cyrus Hunter, former Chatham County chairman Pete Liakakis and state Reps. Bob Bryant and Craig Gordon will be on hand to honor the recipients and help present the awards.
"Pat Gunn (a historical re-enactor) will perform as Harriet Tubman and give the oral history of Juneteenth," Jackson said. "The Savannah State University jazz band will also perform."
The Juneteenth Orchestra, an R&B band, RaSearch, an Atlanta rapper who raps about slavery, Servant Emannu'el Branch and Flau'Jae will also perform.
But Jackson added that you can't have a celebration without food.
"We feed all of our people for free," she said. "Cyrus Hunter will barbecue chicken, and we'll have old-school fried corn - that's how slaves use to eat corn - provided by MaRandy's, hot dogs, grilled chicken and drinks," Jackson said.
The city of Savannah will provide free face painting and NAN and NAACP will be on hand to get voters registered.
"We want people to be able to exercise their right, so when things go wrong, they can do something besides complain," Jackson said.
IF YOU GO
What: Juneteenth Celebration
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 29
Where: 38th Street Park
More info: Marilyn Jackson at 912-412-4851