Auburn is hosting its inaugural Juneteenth Celebration from noon to 5 p.m. June 18 at Les Gove Park.
The celebration will feature music with a DJ and a live band, food trucks and vendors, African dancers, spoken word poets and inflatable rides for the kids, according to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager Brenda Goodson-Moore.
Several local businesses will have booths as well. Goodson-Moore said the city wants to emphasize supporting local Black-owned businesses. Mayor Nancy Backus and Auburn City Councilmembers will also be in attendance.
“Family Reunion” will be the theme for this year’s celebration, according to the city. This theme honors Black family reunions that date back to emancipation. Formerly enslaved people would put advertisements in local newspapers in search of family members, according to the city.
“This family tradition became a tangible symbol of memory and resilience that endured slavery,” a city statement said. “Today, African American family reunions continue as an intergenerational celebration of community, fellowship and heritage.”
Juneteenth is the celebration of the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865. Although July 4 is celebrated as the nation’s Independence Day, Black Americans were not free in 1776, Goodson-Moore said.
“Even though this holiday has been celebrated by Black families since the late 1800s in various forms, it has come to more prominence now that it is a federally recognized holiday in the United States. It is past time to include this very important part of American history,” Goodson-Moore said. “The Revolutionary War came in 1776 and the Fourth of July is a celebration of American independence from British rule, but not all Americans were free. The Emancipation Proclamation did not come until 1863, and slavery was not officially ended until June 19, 1865, and is now recognized and celebrated as Juneteenth.”
The first Juneteenth celebration in the Pacific Northwest actually took place in Kent in 1890, and was sponsored by the Sons of Enterprise, Goodson-Moore said.
Although this is the first Juneteenth celebration by the City of Auburn, Goodson-Moore said the city is looking forward to expanding the celebration in years to come and continuing the work to make Auburn a welcoming community.