Lake Oswego, Respond to Racism hosting Juneteenth celebration
Willie Poinsette, the president of Respond to Racism, said that telling the true history of America — one that does not erase the experiences of marginalized groups — can enrich perspective and enhance understanding. This is one reason why the organization, in conjunction with the city of Lake Oswego parks and recreation and library departments, is hosting a celebration honoring Juneteenth, which marks the day the last slaves in the United States (in Texas) were informed they were free June 19, 1865. This was over two years after the legal abolition of slavery in America.
"It makes us richer. We learn; we are able to dismantle some of the racism that exists. We are able to talk to other people and really get to know us as human beings," Poinsette said.
The second annual celebration will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 19 at Millennium Plaza Park and will include a presentation on the significance of Juneteenth from activist Antoinette Edwards, as well as musical performances, remarks from Mayor Joe Buck and Councilor Massene Mboup and poetry readings from Respond to Racism's Youth Empowerment Committee.
Unlike last year, the city of Lake Oswego is helping to fund and plan the event.
"Obviously the city of Lake Oswego greatly values equity," Parks and Recreation Events and Organic Education Supervisor Jamie Inglis said. "It's one of the goals as we move forward to really celebrate a variety of different cultures and ensure we're making steps toward greater equity in the community as a whole. We're really honored with the opportunity to co-host the event with Respond to Racism and look forward to the celebration."
Edwards is the former director of Portland's Office of Youth Violence Prevention and previously worked with Poinsette when she was a principal in Portland.
"Thinking about the kind of people who were slaves at that time and then to suddenly find freedom, I thought Antoinette could tell that story. She's a great storyteller. She could tell that story in a way that helps them understand," Poinsette said.
Performing musicians include hip hop artists Conscious Ave and Randall Wyatt, jazz and soul musician Julianne Johnson-Weiss and West African drummer Alex Addy.
"We listened to different music to find songs that we thought would be fun for the crowd," Respond to Racism organizer Terri Kraemer said, adding that all the performers are Black and will be paid for their efforts.
Inglis said that if state guidance stays the same at the time of the event, the maximum capacity will be 387 people and the city will follow state guidance as far as social distancing and mask-wearing.
"It's wonderful to have events back, even though they look a little bit different this year. We're really thrilled to reconnect with the community, especially at an important event like this," she said.
The reason why it took so long for slaves in Texas to be emancipated is because there were few Union army troops there to enforce the order. That changed when Major General Gordan Granger's regiment arrived in Galveston, Texas.
Kraemer felt that it's important to highlight Juneteenth in part because it's an aspect of history that's rarely taught in schools. She hopes locals will learn history and enjoy themselves. Poinsette, meanwhile, advised people to put on their dancing shoes and prepare to celebrate.
"I'm looking forward to the joy and the happiness these kinds of celebrations have," Kraemer said. "There's a lot of stuff in the world that isn't so joyful and happy, so it's really nice to gather for a positive and joyful occasion."
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