The first annual Juneteenth celebration is happening in Bellingham on Saturday, June 16. Although the actual nationwide holiday is on June 19, community members who wish to attend can observe the holiday a few days earlier.
It is an event to recognize the day the emancipation proclamation was put into effect everywhere, freeing the last remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas, according to the Juneteenth website.
The event will start off with a march, where it will lead into different performances such as poetry surrounding the topics of freedom and ancestry, a choir, soul band and an opportunity for community members to participate in an open mic, among many other festivities.
Terrance Morris, co-chairman of the celebration, feels it’s important to celebrate holidays like this because in many occasions minorities are not visible within the community.
“Many minority holidays are not celebrated that minority groups consider American holidays,” Morris said.
At the event, there will be various spaces for community members to get involved and interact with some of the different people and organizations in Bellingham.
There will be an open conversation for people of color to discuss what freedom looks like here in Bellingham and beyond, tabling by social justice groups such as Black Lives Matter and the Racial Justice Coalition and a petition going around to get Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday, followed by a letter to the White House.
“In order for people to become aware of this day is to get it nationally recognized as an American holiday,” Morris said. “It needs to be placed into schools and at a young age to celebrate American history.”
While observance for Juneteenth will happen this year on a larger scale earlier, Black Lives Matter, which is sponsoring the Juneteenth celebration, will also be having a meeting on June 19 to discuss more of the history and the traditional foods that are eaten.
“For me [Juneteenth] opened the door for everything,” Morris said. “If we didn’t have freedom of slaves, what would we have freedom of?”