By CBSLA Staff

LEIMERT PARK (CBSLA) – On the first ever national observance of Juneteenth, Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas led the ceremony to reopen Leimert Park to the public.

LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks to the press.  (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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“This means so much to me. It’s like a homecoming,” Nicole Carter, a Leimert Park resident said.

Carter, who has lived in the community for decades, said the park is where she would go to connect with the community and learn about her history.

“We can finally connect because if we don’t connect to our source, we don’t have anything. So, this right here is very emotional for me because I’m back home,” she said.

President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday by signing legislation into law earlier this week. June 19 marks the day that the last remaining slaves, in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law.

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Councilman Ridley-Thomas noted the poignancy of the day, saying it’s a celebration of the vibrant Leimert Park community and an acknowledgement of the ongoing need for equity.

“That’s what we lay claim to today, as we attempt to move it forward, to fulfill the promise of democracy,” the councilman said.

Leimert Park Rising is an annual Juneteeth celebration with a street fair, a space for Black owned businesses to set up shop, share and celebrate their unique products.

“Being African American, there have always been boundaries, gates, borders blocking us,” Carter told CBSLA’s Rick Montanez. “And now we are back home. We are here. We’re free.”

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The Leimert Park event is just one of several Juneteenth celebrations being held around Los Angeles on Saturday. Plans are already underway to celebrate this event at next year’s Juneteenth celebration.