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The 'Grandmother of Juneteenth' says the holiday is about more than just a party

Opal Lee, the 'Grandmother of Juneteenth', says the holiday is more than just a party
Opal Lee, the 'Grandmother of Juneteenth', says the holiday is more than just a party 02:47

DUNCANVILLE - As we celebrate Black History Month, the city of Duncanville is embracing the opportunity to spend some time with one of the most recognizable and revered people in North Texas, Opal Lee.

And the woman known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" did not disappoint as she shared her message of freedom and love.

Dozens of people packed the D.L. Hopkins Jr. Senior Center in Duncanville on Thursday to meet and hear from the 97-year-old local legend.

"I think these young people here in Duncanville, and I know it's a senior citizens center, but anyone under 97 is a young person, and so they're wanting to hear, I think, about freedom and Juneteenth," said Lee. "And I'm willing to tell them what I know."

Juneteenth is the day commemorating the date, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation when slaves in Texas learned they were free.

Lee worked for decades to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. More than two and a half years ago, her dream came true.

Today, she recalled for the audience the Juneteenth celebrations of her childhood, but she also reminded them that the day is about much more than just a party.

"Oh, did we have fun," she said. "But Juneteenth is about more than a festival. It's freedom. And it's freedom for everyone. I want you to remember that the Fourth of July freed the land, but Juneteenth freed the people."

She says she's humbled and pleased that so many people want to hear her message, and she hopes they're also willing to carry the baton.

"It says that perhaps they're interested enough to pass the message on," said Lee. "And I'm wanting them desperately to make themselves a committee of one. To change somebody's mind. It's not going to happen in a day. We have to work at it. But if people have been taught to hate, they can be taught to love."

Something she says is worth working toward.

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