What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is one of the most important holidays in the history of the United States, but many people don’t know why.
On the 4th of July in 1776, we declared ourselves free of Britain’s rule and became known as the “land of the free” even though slavery would continue for the next century, but in Texas on June 19th in 1865, the last of the slaves were finally freed making our hallmark motto “land of the free” finally true.
Former President Barack Obama attempted to have Congress pass legislation that would recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, but it was denied.
My family moved from California to the east side of Pasco in 1986. We used to celebrate Juneteenth at Kurtzmen Park and way back then the holiday was prosperous and thrived in Pasco’s tight-knit community. My older cousins, Joe and Rashied, used to dominate at the softball tournament. There was laughter, there was beauty, a feast, but more than anything there was kinship, community, and black presence. More than a BBQ, Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom.
Prior to the 2000’s, the east side of Pasco used to look like what Atlanta looks like today, and the black community that is pouring life back into Juneteenth can vouch for that. There’s also a community project underway that aims at persevering the history and stories of the black families that migrated to Pasco and away from Pasco — and most importantly — why.
I am optimistic about the resurgence of this celebration in our town because Charvella McGary and the whole entire Tri-City Juneteenth Community Council has poured their hearts, souls, time, energy, and money into making Juneteenth visible in Pasco once again. Visibility is vital. And now more than ever black joy and liberation must be witnessed and celebrated.
This year, The Tri-City Juneteenth Community Council has worked incredibly hard to bring both the life and spirit of Juneteenth back.
There will be several main events. On Wednesday, June 19th, there will be a family night starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Richland Library. It’s going to be a fun-filled night of history and storytelling.
Thursday, June 20th, is family skate night at the Richland Rollarena from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. And on Friday, June 21st at 6 p.m., the Fashion Show and Awards will be at Chiawana High School. There also will be a “Mommy and Me” pageant that evening.
The Downtown Pasco Parade and Fun Day will be on Saturday, June 22, starting at 11 a.m., and there will be activities at Kurtzman Park. In addition, this year’s Juneteenth celebration will have an after-party “We are Royalty” at the Pasco Red Lion. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
On Sunday, June 23, there will be Gospel in the Park at 3 p.m. at Kurtzman Park.
All communities should be celebrating Juneteenth, not just black communities. All communities. Juneteenth is to black people what 4th of July is to all people in America; acknowledgment of freedom.
This is a mighty undertaking because Juneteenth is the most important holiday in the history of the United States and the majority of the people in our country aren’t even aware of the holiday or why it is celebrated.
On June 19th every year, it would be a welcome change to someday see everyone in the United States display a Juneteenth flag outside their home or mailbox, and I think when that day comes all federal and state organizations should don the flag as well.
Oh, what’s this? You didn’t know there was a Juneteenth flag, did you? Well don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. I didn’t know either. A woman named L.J. Graf designed it and the symbolism in her artwork had special meaning. The star in the middle of the bursting star pays homage to Texas for being the first state to acknowledge Juneteenth and the outer star represents new freedom and new people.
I want to see the meaning and the message of this star shine brightly. I want what Charvella and the Tri-City Juneteenth Community Council are working so hard for to be seen and celebrated by all in my community and country.
Jordan Chaney is a Tri-City poet and author who works with youths in the community.