Jubilation

How to Celebrate Juneteenth in Seattle

It may be our newest federal holiday, but the traditions run deep.

By Taylor Gerlach

The Juneteenth flag was crafted in the '90s, with imagery symbolizing freedom and new beginnings. 

Juneteenth was officially declared a federal holiday last summer, following a year of fevered public outcry, protests, and education movements that shed a national spotlight on persistent racial inequality in the United States. But the anniversary of the day that the country’s last enslaved people learned of their emancipation has been celebrated in Black communities for generations. This year, old traditions meet with new ones in the Juneteenth celebrations cropping up all around Seattle. 

While many of these events involve food in some form, our list of Black-owned restaurants is always a great place to start.

Black Arts Legacies Celebration

June 16, 6:30–8pm | Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, free

Twenty-six local musicians, dancers, visual artists, poets, performers, curators, and architects join forces to showcase their work and reflect on the complexity of being Black in the Seattle art scene. Attendees can peruse physical works of art, view artist profile videos, and take in live performances from contributing artists Mona Lake Jones, Anastacia-Reneé, and Edna Daigre. Designed to be an ever-growing digital archive, the project highlights the essential role Black artists play in our city’s cultural landscape, and will live on beyond the celebration.

Juneteenth Comedy Show: Laughing (In Black)

June 17, 7–10pm | Seattle Drum School of Music, $20

Comedians Deaunte Damper, Marilyn Gibbs, Birungi Birungi, Tawanna Buchanan, Tony Daniel, and Monisa Brown take the stage for an evening of biting comedic relief. Expect laughter and libations.

Black Love: A Form of Resistance

June 18, 1–3pm | MOHAI, various (registration and ticket required)

Delbert Richardson, founder of the Unspoken Truths traveling museum project, leads an afternoon of re-education for all ages. The storytelling experience aims to foster community healing and restoration with a chronicle of the rich history of Africans prior to slavery, the realities of American slavery and the ensuing Jim Crow Era, and the myriad scientific, cultural, and technological achievements of people of African descent.

We Out Here: On The Pier

June 18, 2–6pm | Pier 62, free

With sweeping views of the skyline, bay, and the Olympics, We Out Here brings the party to the waterfront. Two food trucks will dish out refreshments, and games like corn hole and giant chess abound. Local powerhouse JusMoni deejays, bringing local talent to the stage for an afternoon of impeccable vibes.

Drummers at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in 2019.

Women’s Power Soca Brunch

June 19, 11am | Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu, $30

Women can start the morning off with a high-energy, 45-minute power soca dance lesson led by dance educator Fabienne Beard-Wright. The popular dance music, created by Trinidadian artist Lord Shorty, infuses Indian influences into Afro-Caribbean calypso beats and is known for its uplifting rhythmic energy. After the physical and emotional boost, attendees get to enjoy the brunch part from local Black-owned caterer Adikt Wingz.

Juneteenth and Community Health Fair

June 19, 11–3 | Rainier Beach Community Center Plaza, free

The Rainier Beach Community Center hosts food trucks, vendors, cultural performances, and kids’ activities.

Juneteenth Celebration

June 19, 11am–6pm | Othello Park, free

A potluck-style meal may take the cake for festival nosh. Last year, traditional Southern soul foods—barbecue, corn bread, red velvet cake, ribs, greens, macaroni and cheese, and some vegan options—filled bellies. They even had chitlins, and “there wasn’t a stitch of them left,” event organizer Teresa Everett marvels. But the food is fuel for a larger celebration: a vendor marketplace, an educational children’s corner with take-home art projects and Juneteenth trivia, spoken word performances, drill team demos, and live music from local artists like Twiya and Trackyon Music.

Skate to Freedom Party and Community Day

June 19, 11am–5pm | Judkins Park, free

Seattle’s favorite skate park plays host to a party on wheels. Free skate rentals allow everyone to attempt a perilous moonwalk or figure-eight step pattern. On the fringes, local Black-owned vendors and food trucks await to fuel skaters, and family-friendly activities and music keep the festivities rolling. In what is perhaps Seattle’s most fashion-forward community, earn style points with an expressive outfit.

Juneteenth Royal Ball

June 19, 7–11pm | Renton Pavilion Events Center, various

After a day of disparate festivals, marches, and celebrations throughout the Puget Sound area, inaugural Royal Ball organizers hope to gather all—elders, community leaders, business owners, and young folks—to reclaim Black community in Washington for an evening of excellence. Attendees don cultural Wakanda-like attire or formal wear and walk the purple carpet while cementing a new annual tradition.

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