Husband and wife pair Susan Bodnar-Deren, a professor of sociology, and Dingani Mthethwa, a professor of history, both at Virginia Commonwealth University, attended the event and went on the self-guided walking tour. Learning about West Oakland’s history, both said they saw similarities to the struggles of Black people in Richmond, Virginia, and in South Africa, where Mthethwa is originally from. “Hearing this story brings in all those memories and parallels,” Mthethwa said.
“It is so nice to see Oakland as one of those places I’m proud to say I’m from,” said Tamika Nicole, a singer who grew up in Oakland and sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (also known as the Black National Anthem) at the event. She said she felt blessed to have had the opportunity to learn Black history and ethnic studies. “We have the opportunity to be around lots of other people and celebrate all of our contributions."
Despite the joy of celebrating Juneteenth, Nicole said there’s also much more to be done: “We did ask for us to stop being killed, but we got a holiday. So here we are."