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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee leads Juneteenth prayer service at downtown Houston church

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was built in the 1800s by formerly enslaved people.

HOUSTON — Juneteenth is a holiday with roots in the Houston and Galveston areas. The day was recently recognized as a federal holiday.

Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee authored the new legislation that was signed in last year. She hosted a community event at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday.

"I thought about those slaves who were born lived and died and were never honored and never knew freedom. That’s what this means to me today,” Jackson Lee said.

The historic church in downtown Houston is a direct result of Juneteenth.

“You feel it when you're sitting on the pews that were built by former slaves. How awesome is that? You can’t help but feel that pride as soon as you come in the door,” church member Leslie Grant said.

The church was founded in 1866 and was built by a small group of former slaves just months after the Juneteenth proclamation.

It was pastored by Jack Yates, one of the four men who purchased Houston’s Emancipation Park.

Sunday’s service featured songs, dance and scripture reading. It was an opportunity for people to reflect on what Juneteenth means to them.

"It's like a waterloo, watershed moment. In other words, it is representative to the fourth of July,” Dolores McCarter said.

Grant said the decades-old building is a sign that what’s built on a good foundation can stand the test of time.

"Freedom ... freedom ... that is exactly what it is,” he said.

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