Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Black Independence Day, is an annual holiday celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s. The celebration of Juneteenth Oregon began in 1945 when community leader Clara Peoples introduced the tradition from Muskogee, Oklahoma, to her co-workers at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland.
Last year, City Council adopted an ordinance establishing June 19 as a formal day of remembrance and holiday to honor and recognize Black American history and the end of slavery in the United States. Since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, the City paid holiday will be observed tomorrow. Multnomah County and Oregon have also designated Juneteenth as a holiday.
For a state that prohibited Black people from living here until 1926, we have come a long way, thanks to community members who protested and fought for racial equity and continue to speak truth to power for meaningful change. We have much more work to do, but having an official day for all of us to celebrate, grieve, listen, learn, engage, heal, and engage in self-care is a good start.
I will personally honor Juneteenth by reading texts with my children that highlight the significance of Juneteenth. We will be reading: All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom and The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure.
I firmly believe that one way in which we honor the contributions of Black America is to educate our youth. Much of this history is either covered quickly, inaccurately, or not at all in schools. This year and for years to come, I am committing to ensuring my children engage with the story of their rich, vibrant, beautiful, resilient Black community. I encourage you to do the same. Share a story—share a resource—share the tremendous legacy of the Black experience in this country.
Here are some other resources and community gatherings to honor Juneteenth and the Black Community:
49th Annual Juneteenth Oregon
Free, streaming community celebration
Juneteenth 4 The Culture Block Party at Billy Webb Elks Lodge
Saturday, June 19 from noon to 5:00 p.m. | 6 North Tillamook Street
Support Black Business:
Black-owned Business Crawl
Juneteenth resources for the whole family (Multnomah County Library)
Celebrate Juneteenth (Multnomah County Library)