by Susan Fried (photos) and Marcus Harrison Green (words)
American slavery’s extinction was celebrated en masse this weekend as hundreds flocked to Juneteenth celebrations held in Seattle’s South End and Central District.
Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth, an amalgam of June and 19th, commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, along with 2000 Union soldiers to inform a resistant community of the long-delayed news that President Abraham Lincoln had officially freed all slaves two years prior.
Since then, Juneteenth festivities have spread, migrating with the Black community from the Deep South across the nation. There is currently a movement in place to make the celebration an official national holiday.
And while the Pacific Northwest has only relatively recently begun celebrating the annual event vigorously, last weekend showed the region is making up for lost time with several events.
Of Juneteenth’s enduring legacy and its universal appeal, educator Marcella Pendergrass who attended a celebration in Rainier Beach proclaimed: “Human beings will always possess the urge to be free.”
Rainier Beach/ Celebrate Juneteenth
The Atlantic Street Center, Rainier Beach Community Center and Therapeutic Health Service held their 2nd annual event on the plaza outside Rainier Beach Community Center on Friday, June 16th. The event featured performances by KuttN’Up, Northwest Tap and the Throwback Dance Group as well as free hot dogs and hamburgers, information booths, library books and abundant sunshine.
Yesler Community Center/ Juneteenth Celebration
The Yesler Community Center also held a Juneteenth Celebration on Friday, June 16th that included a speech by King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, a performance by community center kids who choreographed their own dance with guidance from VIBE and the Au Collective, and dancing by the ubiquitous Northwest Tap Connection. In the tradition of all Juneteenth celebrations there was plenty of food for everyone.
Pratt Park/ 34th Annual Juneteenth International Festival
The Central Area Chamber of Commerce’s 34th Annual Juneteenth International Festival at Pratt Park is the city’s longest running Juneteenth celebration. This year’s theme was “Education is Key: Our Children Matter” and featured music, food, children’s activities, art and history. The 3 day event spanned the weekend, ending on Sunday, Church in the Park Day, with the releasing of balloons to honor the life of Vickie Williams, the owner of LEMS Books in Columbia City who passed away earlier this year.
There is still one more South Seattle Juneteenth celebration on the calendar. On June 24th New Holly will hold its 2nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration from 10:00 to 5:00 pm at 7054 32nd Ave S. The free event will feature music, spoken word performances, dance, children’s activities,resource tables and free food.