By Velena Jones

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Millions around the country are commemorating Juneteenth like never before. This year, the celebrations are amplified by protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Even in celebration, communities are calling for changes they hope will lead to a better future.

Jeanette Debbs at her home.

For Jeanette Debbs, a Texas native, growing up in the state that holds so much of her ancestor’s history was never lost on her.

“Somewhere down my mother’s line there were slaves,” she said. “Even after we got the word that slaves were not slaves, those same ideals continued.”

Debbs grew up in Texas when segregation was especially predominant in the South.

“We knew that there was separation of the races….we knew if we went downtown to the local store that there was a white water fountain and a colored one. In fact, we use to go in and drink out of the white one and run,” she said.

When it comes to Juneteenth, a celebration commemorating the official end to slavery, when slaves were finally free in her home state, the wounds never heal.

“I haven’t forgotten all the pain that it represents. Maybe I have not forgotten because I still see behaviors that are so akin to all of what happened,” she said.

She hopes continued calls for racial equality, like Friday’s Juneteenth Rally lead by Black Justice Sacramento, will bring the change she said she hasn’t seen in her seven decades.

READ: Police Chiefs Support Reform Amid Juneteenth Celebrations

“This is not a moment and this is a movement, and uprising and so it is going to be really important for folks to keep the pressure on,” said Sacramento City School Board Chair, Mai Vang.

Vang wants police contracts to be canceled within the district.

Dozens gathered in Cesar Chavez Park Friday both in celebration and demanding action, including recalling Mayor Darell Steinberg.

Swipe through pictures from the celebration in Cesar Chavez Park below

“We don’t trust Mayor Steinberg to lead this city in a manner that brings about social justice,” one speaker said.

The group wants to see changes in the systems, starting with less police funding and more money invested in the youth and community. Organizers called for the reallocation of Measure U funding and negotiations of police contracts.

“We should be investing in the things that actually make us safe and that allow our communities to thrive. When we only invest in emergency response, we miss those opportunities to make sure we can prevent those emergencies in the first place,” said Dr. Flojaune Cofer, who chairs the Measure U Community Advisory Committee.

Among a number of action items, newly elected councilmember Katie Valenzuela announced she is creating a budget she wants the public to help draft. She plans to work with community members to see what changes they would like to see in the city’s budget and where the money should be allocated.

As Juneteenth marches continue throughout the weekend, Debbs hopes those celebrations will lead to change.

“I hope people won’t just look at all the talk, all the protest and then go back to business as usual,” said Debbs.

Velena Jones

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