Juneteenth honors the day—June 19, 1865—when Black people enslaved in Galveston, Texas learned that slavery had been abolished. (Even though, two and half years earlier, the Emancipation Proclamation had legally released “all persons held as slaves.”)
Juneteenth is usually celebrated with music, parades, and food, but huge protests over the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, and others, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, make this Juneteenth different. Here are some ways to observe the holiday this year.
Justice for Black Lives
Dmarkis Wigfall has been returning from Downtown and Capitol Hill protests against racism and police brutality to find his Greenlake neighborhood seemingly oblivious to the upheaval. “The idea for [this] march was to wake up suburbia,” he says, adding that living farther from the protests makes it easier to tune them out. “How can people be comfortable when there’s so much injustice?” Wigfall is a third-generation barber, so he tapped into the passions for anti-racism shared by his clients and friends to organize the march that begins at West Woodland Park Playground in Phinney Ridge and ends in Ballard. Wigfall is hoping the march becomes an annual celebration of Black culture, which he says is fundamental to America. Friday’s gathering isn’t just a march, though, Wigfall says. “It’s a history lesson, it’s a memoriam to all those lives who were lost, and it is a conversation that has to be had.” 10am, Woodland Park Playground
Juneteenth Freedom March and Assembly
For almost 20 years, King County Equity Now Coalition has been fighting for equity in housing, health care, education, and organizational control for members of the county’s African diaspora. The coalition, along with over 30 other local activist groups, will honor the late DeCharlene Williams, who founded the Central Area Chamber of Commerce and brought Juneteenth to Seattle almost 40 years ago. 2pm, Starts at 23rd and Union
The Next Steps
Andrè Taylor formed the organization Not This Time! after two Seattle Police Department officers shot and killed Che Taylor, his brother. Not This Time! works with community leaders and institutional representatives to demand police accountability. The group will gather at Judkins Park in the Central District along with community leaders, clergy, and tribal leaders to educate the public on the obstacles preventing equal distribution of justice to Seattle. 1pm, Judkins Park
The Northwest African American Museum will come together virtually with the National Civil Rights Museum, the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and Mitchelville Freedom Park to host a Juneteenth celebration dedicated to engaging the public. National leaders in Black museology will appear alongside artists and educators to discuss the meaning of freedom. Audience members are encouraged to participate by considering the question and submitting ideas before the start of the program.
Black in Seattle
Journalist and bureau chief for KQED, Tonya Mosley, created this four-part radio series back in 2014, when Seattle was ranked the fifth whitest city in America by the U.S. Census Bureau. Earning an Edward R. Murrow award, the series dives into the stories of Black Seattle residents—past and present—who’ve experienced life in the margins of a predominately white city. Mosley, once a Seattle resident, offers journalistic storytelling that connects moments in history with the current fight for equity.
Buy Music by Local Black Musicians
Bandcamp will donate 100 percent of its share of sales made through the music-sharing website at any time on Juneteenth this year and on all future Juneteenths. Funds will go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which litigates for civil rights causes. Users can take the opportunity to purchase music by Black Seattle artists (The Stranger worked up a big list), supporting both local music and a nationwide effort to defend Black lives.
Juneteenth Week 2020
From home, viewers can tap into a host of programs slated through Sunday. From children’s programs that focus the root chakra to nighttime shows featuring artists like DJ Bizzon, each day (and night) is an opportunity to celebrate and honor Black lives. Food lovers can look forward to a cooking presentation from Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan. The program is presented by local and regional groups like the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Black Lives Matter – Seattle/King County, Tabor 100, and the FW Black Collective.