President Joe Biden made the long-celebrated holiday a federal one in 2021

2023 Juneteenth Paso Contributed 3
Photos Courtesy of Juneteenth Paso

PASO ROBLES — On Saturday, June 17, Downtown Paso Robles was abuzz with activity as hundreds of residents and visitors gathered for the Juneteenth Jubilee. Observed on June 19, President Joe Biden made the long celebrated holiday a federal one in 2021. This annual event holds great significance as it commemorates the historic moment when Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to announce the emancipation of all slaves.

The Juneteenth Committee of Paso Robles, started with long-time residents Juanetta Perkins, Lovella Walker, and Sondra Williams.

“I chose to get involved because I knew the power of Paso Robles and I thought that we could do better representing all of its residents,” said Williams, who is serving her first year as a trustee on the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board. “I knew that if we wanted our children and neighbors to be educated, to be accepting and loving and welcoming, it would have to happen in small circles and with us. I knew I couldn’t sit around and dream of cultural events in our park. I would have to plan them. I knew I couldn’t wish people loved each other. I had to model it. I became involved because it was evident change started with me.”


Planning this year’s event started immediately after the success of last year’s jubilee in the park. The committee works with the city and local businesses and community members to bring the celebration to life. Their goal extended beyond planning a single day of festivities: It aimed to showcase the strength of unity in Paso Robles.

“It took until 2021 for Juneteenth to be federally recognized,” Williams elaborates on why Juneteenth is important to her. “Unfortunately, there are daily reminders that if it were not illegal slavery and the hate that it bares to fully oppress another human, would still be alive today.”

The Juneteenth Jubilee featured several attractions, and attendees reveled in the vibrant atmosphere. From inspirational speeches and performances by local talents to engaging workshops and educational sessions, the event offered something for everyone. One highlight was the presence of young speakers, recent graduates of Paso Robles High School, who shared their personal experiences and aspiration.

For Perkins, the event was especially meaningful. 

“This event is important to me because I have a beautiful 13-year-old black daughter who is being raised in Paso Robles,” she said. “I want her to celebrate her blackness and be proud to be black.”

Over 300 people attended to indulge in traditional foods, traditions, and music. Speakers included the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Mid Central Coast, Michael Boyer, who acted as the keynote speaker. Paso Robles youth returned to town to speak as well, including Kristen Thompson, Kelen Macharia, and Shoni Taylor. The park was filled with fun family activities, including a dunk tank loaded with some local police officers.  

2023 Juneteenth Paso
Photos Courtesy of Juneteenth Paso

“This year in particular, I was awe-struck seeing for the first time ever, the park laden with American flags in celebration of Juneteenth,” said Williams of this year’s celebration.

Collaboration with local organizations and community groups played a crucial role in making the event successful. The committee expressed their gratitude to the sponsors who supported the Juneteenth Jubilee, acknowledging their contribution to bringing the event to life.

Walker expressed to Paso Robles Press why Juneteenth is important to her, “It shines [a] light on our history. It’s time for America to acknowledge our history instead of trying to remove our history from the next generations.”

She adds, “It’s also important because it commemorates the anniversary of the day all slaves became free, and it reminds us of what our ancestors went through in order for us to be where we are today. Without their sweat, blood, tears, and so many lives lost, we wouldn’t be where we are today, not to mention ever have seen a Black president in our lifetime, which is inspirational and lets us know we can be whatever we aspire to be.”

For those interested in getting involved with future Juneteenth events, the organizers encourage early engagement and offer various avenues for participation. Individuals can contribute by volunteering, donating, or promoting the event.