Seattle’s DeCharlene Williams started the local Juneteenth Celebration at Pratt Park 36 years ago, at a time when few people outside of Texas knew what Juneteenth was. Juneteenth or Freedom Day celebrates the anniversary of the date the last enslaved people in the United States were freed. Although the Emancipation Proclamation, came into effect on January 1, 1863, the more than 200,000 enslaved people in Texas weren’t notified until June 19, 1865 when the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed the people of Texas that “all slaves are free.”
The holiday has grown here as more people who know about Juneteenth from around the country move here. What started as a couple of small festivals and celebrations in Seattle has turned into dozens of events held in honor of the historic day. Some of the 2019 events in Seattle included Community Celebrations at Rainier Beach Community Center and Yesler Community Center and the 36th Annual Juneteenth International Celebration sponsored by the Central Area Chamber of Commerce at Pratt Park.
There are still several opportunities to celebrate Juneteenth including the Linda Sweezer Memorial Juneteenth Festival & Celebration June 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Morrill Meadows Park in Kent, and a Free Juneteenth celebration in Renton, on the same day from noon to 7 p.m. at the Harambee Church.
Featured Photo: Three-year-olds Keylani and Yaya dance during Celebrate Juneteenth, June 13 at the Rainier Beach Community Center. (Photo: Susan Fried)