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Outdoor commemorations of national holiday to return to both cities this month

Oregon City and Milwaukie's celebrations of Juneteenth are returning this year, the year following the holiday receiving national recognition.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Oregon City resident Gavin Blackwell reads the Emancipation Proclamation, a traditional part of the African American celebration of Juneteenth.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Troy Tate, a volunteer with Oregon Black Pioneers, hosted an informational booth at Oregon City's Juneteenth celebration, where he was also a speaker.

Milwaukie's second-annual Juneteenth Celebration will take place from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at Water Tower Park, 9890 S.E. 40th Ave.

Water Tower Park has a new mural honoring Hurtis and Dorothy Hadley, who operated the first Black-owned bakery, not only in Milwaukie, but in the entire state during the 1970s.

From 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, Oregon City Library will commemorate and celebrate the Juneteenth holiday for its third year in a row.

The first hour of OC's outdoor event in Library Park will feature a lineup of special guest speakers, including a keynote presentation from Oregon Remembrance Project founder Taylor Stewart. The second hour will feature a musical performance by Oregon Music Hall of Fame and Cascade Blues Association Hall of Fame inductee Ellen Whyte.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' known as the second national anthem, is performed by the Rex Putnam High School choir on June 19 in Oregon City.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Portland pastor and poet Emmett Wheatfall speaks at the Juneteenth celebration hosted by Unite Oregon City at the OC library.

Hundreds of people are again expected to attend the Juneteenth events in both Milwaukie and Oregon City.

Troy Tate, a volunteer with Oregon Black Pioneers, supported the idea of Juneteenth as a national holiday, extending far beyond its original significance in Texas where former slaves celebrated their freedom on June 19, 1865. As a native Oregonian in his 30s, Tate was among the many youth educated in public schools who played the Oregon Trail video game and learned that Black people were not free when they arrived here. Oregon was technically a free state, but exclusion laws prevented Blacks from holding property and authorized corporal beatings until they left.

Portland poet and pastor Emmett Wheatfall, who attended Juneteenth celebrations in both Milwaukie and OC last year, said the holiday is an opportunity to "celebrate the emancipation and the inclusion of the negro." Juneteenth also serves as a reminder, Wheatfall said, that our nation says to the whole world that we're freedom land, but that ideal represented by the Statue of Liberty hasn't been fully put into practice during the country's legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws and continued oppression of minority groups.

"June 19, 1865, represents yesterday, and yesterday today," Wheatfall said. "Today is June 19, 1865, again, and Oregon City celebrates freedom land."

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