While the Fourth of July has been celebrated by folks of all backgrounds for centuries there is another independence day getting more recognition this year: Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is the day recognized as the day in 1865 when the last of those enslaved by the Confederacy in Texas learned of their freedom. Today, June 19 is celebrated by the Black community as a day of African American freedom.
Just this month, Juneteenth gained recognition as a holiday by Multnomah County and on June 18, Gov. Kate Brown made a ceremonial proclamation to recognize it as a state holiday and announced her intention to introduce a bill to recognize it officially in the 2021 legislative session.
In Sandy, mother and teacher Lindsay Polk plans to spend the day honoring her children's Black heritage.
Sophie, 6, is biracial. Her mother is white, and her father is Black. LaRone, 14, Lindsay's stepson is also biracial.
Despite their father's involvement in the Black community in Portland, this is the children's and Lindsay's first year celebrating Juneteenth.
"This will be a new experience," Lindsay said.
While she and the children's father are no longer together, Lindsay said she recognizes that her daughter is "still going to be a Black woman in the United States regardless of the fact that she has a white mother."
"As I get older, I realize how white-washed history is," Lindsay noted. "I have a degree in history, and I've started to really think about what I learned. Not to say my education was bad. I heard about but never really understood race relations in the US. As a white mother to biracial children, I want to make sure they're getting a balanced history."
To commemorate Juneteenth, Lindsay plans to take Sophie and LaRone to get dinner from a Black-owned restaurant in East Portland on Friday and participate in the virtual Juneteenth Oregon celebration on Saturday. She has also found a children's book on Juneteenth to read with Sophie on her Kindle called "Juneteenth for Mazie" by Floyd Cooper.
"I think it's important for us as a community as a whole to align with people of color and celebrate these special times and acknowledge they exist — the good and the bad parts," Lindsay explained. "My goal is to make this a tradition. I think it is important like Christmas. You celebrate family and tradition. I think it will take time to establish why (we are celebrating) with a six-year-old, but any traditions I can establish with my daughter to help her celebrate her history and her culture I will. I don't want her to become an adult and be like 'Why didn't we talk about this?'"
Lindsay is one of three women locally leading the Sandy STAND UP Movement against racism to spread awareness of systemic racism and make sure minority voices are heard in the greatly white community.
"I wasn't aware of (all of what it meant to be Black) for a really long time," Lindsay admitted, even for a the first few years of her daughter's life. "My daughter is sometimes the only person of color in a room and I'm always having to be aware of that and how that might affect my child. My son is 14 and 6' 2". Every time he walks out that door I worry about him. Sandy doesn't have that history of racial violence, but I still worry. I am excited to see where this community is going. We need to make this community a place where everyone wants to live."
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