MANSFIELD -- A Juneteenth event in Downtown Mansfield attracted more than 100 people on Friday night at The Gazebo.
The celebration, organized by the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, featured a variety of community speakers, including Alexis "Xposyur" Boyd, a spoken word artist, and Carlos Christian, an activist focused on education and the U.S. prison system.
Keisha Allen, the NABJC chair, hoped the gathering would educate and encourage the public.
"Juneteenth has been around for a long time and not many people know exactly what it is," Allen said. "So we wanted to shed a lilttle light on what it is.
"Juneteenth is the celebration of the day that the slaves were emancipated and received their freedom."
The goal of education is a core concept of NABJC, according to Allen, who describes the group as seeking to educate people on the law, their rights and the quest for justice.
Christian spoke to the crowd about knowing where to place faith and what misplaced faith can do to a person's life. Christian described his struggles, which ultimately landed him in prison -- and how by placing faith in the right things he was able to turn his life around.
"I put my faith in money. I put my faith in people. I put my faith in weapons and I got incarcerated," Christian said. "But now I put my faith in God and that takes me to a whole new level.
"I just feel so energized."
Christian developed the Starts Within Organization, a group dedicated to preventing recidivism and helping incarcerated men get a fresh start. Christian ended his speech by noting that slavery still exists in the U.S. and that this slavery is government-sanctioned.
"The only way you can be a slave in the United States of America is if you get convicted of a crime and it serves as punishment," Christian said. "Once I got incarcerated, now I have to work for 22 cents -- and I got a 3-cent raise after three years."
Christian quoted the 13th ammendment, which states: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to its jurisdiction.
Boyd focused her address on the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis over Memorial Day Weekend.
"We have prayed and still gotten preyed on," Boyd said. "Blue cops spill red blood that makes my heart black and although we are the same color as tar we don't belong there."
The event ended with eight minutes and 46 seconds of music to honor Floyd, the amount of time a policeman pressed his knee on the victim's neck causing his death. The crowd was encouraged to pull out their respective phones for a flashlight vigil.