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Opal Lee's annual Walk for Freedom is just the beginning, Grandmother of Juneteenth says

Opal Lee's annual Walk for Freedom is just the beginning, Grandmother of Juneteenth says
Opal Lee's annual Walk for Freedom is just the beginning, Grandmother of Juneteenth says 03:59

DALLAS — The Grandmother of Juneteenth is sharing the love this year: the annual Opal's Walk for Freedom stepped off for the first time in Dallas. Big crowds, a festive atmosphere and infectious goodwill covered Fair Park.

The national holiday appears to have just been a start: Opal Lee has her sights set on America's heart.

"Hello young people," Lee said to the crowd from the stage. "And you're all young if you're not 97... "

It doesn't matter what she says or how often those gathered might have heard it.

"Make yourself a committee of one to change somebody's mind," said Lee. "We know people who aren't on the same page you are and we want to change their minds. It's not gonna happen today, you're gonna have to work at it."

There's something magical about Opal Lee: teacher, change-maker, humanitarian, and Grandmother of Juneteenth.

Opal Lee's Walk for Freedom
CBS News Texas

Annie McCullough Chavis flew in from North Carolina.

"I'm so happy to be a part of this because Opal Lee started the campaign," said Chavis. "So I couldn't not be here to celebrate such a monumental day of freedom."

Walkers came from all over North Texas, the nation, and even overseas saying they wanted to celebrate Juneteenth's message of freedom, but also unity.

"Get out of your community, get out of your comfort zone, come and get together and do something good for everyone," said Terri Kofoed, who lives in Flower Mound.

"Absolutely," said Eddie Garcia, chief of the Dallas Police Department, "There's not a place in the country that doesn't need it right now. And it's just a great day ... Regardless of race, religion, culture, anything. And they're here walking. So, I mean, you got to feel good about it."

Lee's 2.5-mile walk acknowledges the two and half years it took for news of freedom to reach those enslaved in Texas on June 19, 1865. Over the decades, the celebrations that followed became known as Juneteenth.

Donald Payton is a Dallas historian.

"To see people passing on our story, passing on our heritage," Payton said. "Black, brown, white, Asian, all coming together to celebrate Juneteenth: that's miraculous!"

Lee's crusade is also enriching future generations.

"We come here to learn about, like, our history and what happened years ago and how we got our freedom in Texas," said 11-year-old Elizabeth Carter.

Opal's Freedom Walk will return to Fort Worth next year with plans for a major walk in the nation's capital in 2026, as America turns 250 years old. Organizers say the goal is to celebrate freedom from Juneteenth through July 4th, because after all... "July 4th freed the land, but Juneteenth freed the people..."

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