|Clara Peoples and Paul Knauls in the 2012 Juneteenth Parade. This year Mrs. Peoples is the Grand Marshall.|
This year's Juneteenth promises to be a big one, with food, free children's activities, arts events and a parade celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation itself.
Portland's Juneteenth, on Saturday, June 15, in the green field by Legacy Emanuel at Northeast Vancouver and Graham Street, goes beyond honoring the day – several years late – when enslaved Americans in Texas learned of President Abraham Lincoln's move to abolish slavery.
Doris Rush, Juneteenth Committee chair, wants every community resident to understand that this day represents a celebration of freedom for people all over the world.
"It's not known about by even a lot of African Americans – but everybody from every culture, every race and age group can enjoy a sense of freedom," Rush says. "Plus great music and food -- there is a lot of fun and knowledge to be gained at this event."
What is Juneteenth? Although Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, it was not until June 19, 1865 -- more than two years later -- that freedom came to the last enslaved workers in Texas.
The Vancouver NAACP plans its first-ever Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 22 at Marine Park, at SE Marine Park Way and Columbia Way near the Water Resource Center, from 1 -5 p.m. Their event features food, vendors and entertainment. Find out more about their work at www.naacpvanc.org , or email President Rev. Marva J. Edwards at [email protected].
Portland organizers say that Juneteenth is "meant to rejoice in freedom and remind everyone that African-Americans' ancestors endured one of the worst slave experiences in human history."
In Portland, the celebration starts with a "Freedom Parade" at 11 a.m. along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, between Northeast Jarrett and Knott Streets. This year's Grand Marshall is "Mother of Juneteenth" Clara Peoples, who in 2011 was bestowed the national honor of "Miss Juneteenth."
Peoples is credited with leading Oregon's first-ever Juneteenth Parade, along the docks during World War II.
The short parade ends at the Legacy Emanuel field at Northeast Vancouver at Graham, where the festival will take place starting at noon, and running through 6 p.m.
There will be foods, musical artists, special guest speakers, arts and craft vendors, prizes, a play area for children, and much more. This event is free to the public and family-friendly.
Rush also praises U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, who last December became the 30th signer of a joint resolution declaring Juneteenth a national holiday.
"This year marks 150 years since the steel chains were broken on African-American people," Rush says. "Portland's Juneteenth events may be small and not as prominent as in most other cities, but we still believe that our communities should join in celebrating our freedom as Americans."
Also slated is a lecture on the history of Juneteenth by African American historian Hari Jones, assistant director and curator of the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C. The talk is 7-9 p.m. at the University of Portland on Wednesday, June 12, and sponsored by Wells Fargo.
One last special program is, "Juneteenth: Words Along the Way," 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 19 at the North Portland Neighborhood Library back lawn, 512 N. Killingsworth. In the case of rain, the program will be moved to the second floor auditorium.
At this event, PassinArt Theater Company traces the early history of African Americans through poetry and prose, placing Juneteenth in context. This event will conclude with a make-your-own-sundae Ice Cream Social.
Sponsors of this year's activities include Wells Fargo Bank, Legacy Health System, NW Natural, Skanner News, Passin Art Theater Company, Multnomah County Library, Christopher's Gourmet Grill, The Portland Ice Cream Company and the City of Portland.
For more information or to get involved, write to [email protected].