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 We were preparing for the diocesan Juneteenth Celebration, held June 16 at Blessed John XXIII parish’s Rialto site. Juneteenth is the celebration of the official pronouncement of the end of slavery in 1865.

 The grills took a little time to light up causing some worries. Meanwhile two ladies, Michelle and Julie, who were part of the planning committee were bringing tables and chairs outside under the trees. The gentle morning breeze continued as we ran helter skelter getting ready for the crowd to descend on that ground like the Israelites descended on the Promised Land.

 The Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary started strolling in wearing their purple t-shirts, first their Grand Lady and others followed like the baby chicks follow their mother. 

 Everything was set. Jazz Kraf, the local jazz band, was playing, the tables and chairs set and early birders were sitting while everyone else was strolling in and taking their seats. The meats grilling on the grill sent aromas that wetted everyone’s appetites and brought in the passersby. The event started with an invocation by Deacon Don Norris and a little introduction. The people were fed with either a hamburger or hot dog with some bright summer fruits. Some of the children were running around playing, gyrating with the hula-hoop while others were playing with water guns and still others tossing plastic softball and trying to hit it. The atmosphere was filled with the sound of voices and laughter, some soft and others not so soft.

 The Father Bell Memorial Scholarship was awarded to eight different families. The children from these families will be attending one of the three Catholic high schools in the diocese this fall. They are Michaella Elad, Michella Elad, Margella Elad, Adam Obonyano, Victoria Obonyano, J. Griffen Smith, Lauren Smith, Abanoub Samaan, Alexander Duffy Rose, Angelica Watts, Tatyana Williams and Alexyz Grace Valdez.  The dreams and goals of these children are enormous with lots of hope and possibilities. They range from scientist to medical doctors and sports, all wanting to one day be a major contributor not just to our Church but to our beloved country. It was a memorable event. In all, the band shut down a little before three o’clock in the afternoon as the people went on their way.

 David Okonkwo is the director of the Ministry of the Assembly of Catholics of African Descent for the Diocese of San Bernardino.