The observance of Juneteenth marks the day — June 19, 1865 — when news of Emancipation reached the last group of enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas. Since then, the unofficial holiday serves as a chance to remember the long road that African Americans have taken to where they are today.
In Portland, past Juneteenth celebrations have been relatively low-key. But under the guidance of Woody Broadnax, the Juneteenth party has been gathering steam over the past few years.
And this year promises to be Portland's biggest Juneteenth yet. The Portland Parks and Recreation department is on board, giving this year's observance the city's official sanction.
The "Juneteenth Community Unity" festival is set for June 16 through 18 at Peninsula Park, corner of North Albina Avenue and Portland Boulevard. The weekend-long event will feature succulent barbecue; spoken-word, comedy, blues, hip-hop, R&B, gospel and jazz performances; face-painting; magicians; games; raffles; the Miss Juneteenth America Beauty Pageant contestants; and information on higher education, wellness and housing.
In addition, the festival will host a job fair complete with representatives from the state of Oregon, Multnomah County, the city of Portland and dozens of local businesses.
Activities kick off at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 16, with a prayer; the singing of the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing"; and the introduction of the Juneteenth emcee, Rochelle Pack. Mayor Tom Potter will read an official proclamation of Portland's Juneteenth observance, and state Sen. Avel Gordly will make some brief remarks before the festivities begin.
Saturday's activities again begin at noon with a prayer and the Black National Anthem, followed by a presentation on "What is Juneteenth?"
Gordly returns to read a Juneteenth proclamation from Gov. Ted Kulongoski, followed by the introduction of Broadnax, who will relate the festival's history. After that, it's food, fun and music until 8:15 p.m.
On Sunday, June 18, the opening prayer and song are set for 1 p.m., followed by remarks from the Rev. Black of Greater St. Steven's Baptist Church. A day of worship music follows, including performances from gospel rappers T-Rex, Asa and the Concrete Evangelist, along with gospel songs by Leo Etherly. Local pastors will give brief addresses throughout the day. The celebration comes to a close with a prayer at 8 p.m.
A donation of $5 for adults and $3 for children is suggested for each day's attendance. For more information, call 503-978-9229.