SAN DIEGO (KGTV)-- For the first time in history, the Juneteenth flag was raised at San Diego City Hall Friday. The act was especially meaningful for one San Diego family.
At a special presentation at city hall, 91-year-old Thelma Cooper stood tall with her cane and a big smile.
"I'm proud. Just very proud," Cooper said.
She said her family could not miss the day when Mayor Todd Gloria proclaimed that Saturday would be "Juneteenth Day" in the City of San Diego. He also turned everyone's attention to the flag poles.
"For the first time ever, we will be flying the Juneteenth flag above city hall," Gloria said.
Back in 1954, Ms. Cooper and her late husband Sidney started what is believed to be the first Juneteeth celebration in San Diego. It was a small family picnic, which grew to a community lunch. In recent years, it has become a huge celebration.
"June the 19 was our holiday," Cooper said. "Because it was Black Independence Day. That's when they freed the slaves."
The Coopers continued to celebrate this day every year, teaching the history of the day 250,000 black people who were still enslaved in Texas came to the full awareness of their freedom.
"We want our kids to realize what slavery is because they don't realize what actually was a slave, and we want to teach them," Cooper said in tears.
With the help of the San Diego City Council, the day came to fruition.
"I continue to push the envelope because I want my ancestors to be proud of what I am doing here after all they had to go through," Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe said.
On Friday, it finally became official. What began as a small family picnic is now recognized by the city.
"The tears... these are tears of joy," Cooper said.
The Cooper Family Foundation Juneteenth celebration will be at Memorial Park in Logan Heights, beginning at 11 am.