Juneteenth* is going to be here before you know it, and Yakima will be celebrating the holiday with a Freedom Ride Caravan and Block Party. The Juneteenth holiday officially lands on June 19th, in honor of the date when slaves in Texas found out in 1865 that some 4 million Black people had been freed by federal decree some three whole years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.

When applicable, Juneteenth is celebrated in the same awe, pomp, circumstance, and respect as is given the 4th of July, except this holiday is most revered by American Black folks. Some cities will have a parade, pageant, fireworks, speeches, public and private barbecues and Soul Food dinners, and the like.

There is still debate over Lincoln's actual intentions behind the Emancipation Proclamation. The E.P. in fact brought about even more difficult times for Black Americans. Economic reparations in the form of land and mules were promised to all of the freed slaves, but in a devastating twist, the promise was revoked by President Andrew Johnson in 1865. Millions of former slaves were forced into becoming sharecroppers in order to survive these turbulent times.

Jim Crow laws were soon enacted. Many white supremacist groups and individuals deliberately made it nearly impossible for freed African Americans to attain the life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice they were promised. Prosperous Black communities were destroyed by rage-filled jealous White men during many massacres, such as the Tulsa Massacre of 1921.

My great-great grandfather was a sharecropper. Our family story says that he died by suicide because he could not emotionally deal with the stress of laboring so hard for his former master only to have his wages garnished as the master wished. It was too difficult for him to be able to provide for his large family of a wife and many children. Fast forward to the late 1950s and 1960s, my mother tells me that she can recall the "Colored Only" signs at water fountains and retail stores. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1965, only 9 years before I was born!

All of these tragedies and the aftermath that befell my family and millions of other descendants of African American slaves who were freed in 1862 and 1865 in Texas was honestly NOT THAT LONG AGO!

It is so hard for me to imagine that all of this happened in America only 156 years ago. That would put me in the realm of my mom (1956), grand-mom (1936), great-grandmother (1922), great-great grandmother (unknown), great-great-great grandmother (unknown). My great grandmother Janie is only sixty (60) years removed from the "official" end of slavery. My mother is only 100 years removed from it! The right for my people to exist as freed human beings only occurred some 109 years before I was born!

In full disclosure, I am the Branch President of the Yakima County NAACP and we have partnered with the OIC of Washington and other important community partners to plan Juneteenth/Black Independence Day festivities for the small African American community that lives in Yakima County. This event is open to the public and we invite you to come celebrate with us!

Last year in 2020, the Juneteenth Committee got together and decided on doing a social distanced celebrational event that was ultimately called the Freedom Ride Caravan. The committee has agreed to do the caravan parade again for 2021. Riders are encouraged to begin lining up for the recession of cars between 10:45 a.m. and no later than 11 a.m. when the parade will begin.

The car caravan will proceed along Yakima Avenue until it reaches the destination of MLK Park next to the Henry Beauchamp Community Center. Once the cars have arrived at MLK Park, various speakers will give tribute to the significance of the Juneteenth holiday. The commencements will be followed by a light barbecue in the park for children and distinguished guests until 4 p.m.

WHAT: Juneteenth (African American Independence Day)

WHEN: Saturday, June 19, 2021 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE: Caravan leaves from Central Lutheran Church at the corner of S 16th Ave and Yakima Ave. Curated list of speakers will begin at MLK Park next to the Henry Beauchamp Community Center (1211 S 7th St, Yakima)

COST: Free to attend and open to the public

*T-shirt available via ggspstore.com.

Juneteenth Yakima Committee

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