by Patheresa Wells
Sunday, June 19, Seattleites participated in Juneteenth events across the city. The holiday has long been celebrated throughout the country, especially among African Americans, though it was not formally recognized as a federal holiday until last year. While often thought of in conjunction with the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved people in 1863, many would not receive news of their freedom until later. Those in Galveston, Texas, did not receive word of emancipation until June 19, 1865, more than two years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Juneteenth started as a way for those enslaved in the Galveston area to celebrate that freedom had finally reached them.
The jubilation of Juneteenth spread throughout the United States among African American communities. The events held Sunday in Seattle prove the holiday is both a time of reflection on how long it took for freedom to come and a recognition that the resilience of those enslaved and their ancestors is worth honoring.
Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) held a Skate Party at Judkins Park that included complimentary skate rental, local Black-owned vendors and food trucks, music, and many family-friendly activities. The roller-skating area was full of people vibing to the DJs, laughing, and exuding Black joy.
Attendee and roller skater Nakura Stout, who recently moved here from Baltimore, Maryland, said being able to come to the event means a lot to her. “It’s amazing. And honestly, the fact that there is a Juneteenth Celebration going on and all the support you’re seeing, it’s even better that it’s during Pride month. Juneteenth during Pride month being a queer Black person, I’m glowing. This is the best thing that could ever happen,” she said about her first Juneteenth event in Seattle.
Stout, aka Invisible Roller, regularly attends skating events held at the park by the organization Roll Around Seattle. She said she started roller skating during the pandemic, alone in a parking lot, so to be able to get out with her community is inspiring.
In addition to the complimentary skate rentals available at the party, participants had access to swag from various community organizations and businesses such as King County Public Health, Seattle Mariners, and more. On top of the skates and swag, free meals were provided, as well as COVID-19 vaccines, reduced-fare ORCA cards, and various other services.
Black joy was palpable at this event and at the Juneteenth Festival held by Africatown at neighboring Jimi Hendrix Park. The event featured performances by local singer/songwriter Paris Alexa and other local artists and a Black Business panel discussion.
The group Electronettes Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Drumline gave the crowd a high-energy show as members stepped onto the stage embodying Black Excellence and Enthusiasm. Director of the group Vitina Patterson shared that they teach drills and life skills. These were on display as the team brought the crowd together in delight at the sight of their smiles as they stepped and danced to the drumline.
Black vendors and food trucks made up a significant part of Juneteeth celebrations, allowing small businesses to connect with customers face-to-face after the last couple of years, during which in-person events have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Darrius Coleman with Self-Made Couture, a luxury custom-made clothing brand, said being a part of the Juneteenth celebrations is a special moment, especially now that it’s an official holiday. Coleman, who has attended many festivals as a vendor, expressed that this event has a sense of connection among not only the attendees but also the other vendors, adding to the specialness.
Juneteenth in all its glory is about centering and honoring the history of those in our country who had to wait long for freedom. But once it came, they continued to celebrate it to this very day. For 156 years from the freeing of Galveston to commemorating the national holiday, they mainly celebrated among themselves. Now with numerous Juneteenth events, we can celebrate together as a city and a country.
Patheresa Wells is a Queer poet, writer, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a Black mother and Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to advocate for and amplify her community. She currently attends Highline College in Des Moines. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.
📸 Featured Image: The crowd dances to “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” during the Africatown Juneteenth Festival, June 19, 2022, at Jimi Hendrix Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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