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'Our own fourth of July': Councilwoman Wilkerson outlines ways to celebrate Juneteenth in Spokane

Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson has long advocated for June 19th to be a holiday. Here are ways Spokanites can observe the date as a federal holiday for the first time.

SPOKANE, Wash. — While the end of slavery in the United States is often recognized by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Juneteenth recognizes African American's freedom from slavery in a different way. June 19 marks the day the last slaves were told about the president's order nearly 2 1/2 years later.

Congress passed a bill Wednesday which makes Juneteenth America's 12th federal holiday. It now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Making Juneteenth a federal holiday has been a goal of councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson's.

“For more than one hundred and fifty years Black Americans have celebrated Juneteenth alone with our families and communities. That is finally changing," Wilkerson said. "I am so excited to celebrate Juneteenth with folks from every corner of Spokane this year.” 

In February, Councilwoman Wilkerson testified before the legislature to make June 19th an official paid state holiday. 

In May, Governor Inslee signed a bill into law in order to make Juneteenth a state paid holiday.

Juneteenth events will take place in the East Central Neighborhood, where Betsy grew up and still resides.

These events will run from June 18-20.

Friday at Underhill Park

The Community Pillars Virtual Awards show will kick off the weekend Friday evening, followed by a night movie showing of Black Panther. 

Saturday at MLK East Central Community Center 

Saturday afternoon there will be a block party with live music from DJ K-Phi. 

Sunday at Liberty Park and Emmanuel Life Center

The festivities will continue into Father’s Day with Praise in the Park at Liberty Park at noon, and an afternoon Father’s Day Brunch “Drive up & Pick up” at Emmanuel Life Center.

In addition to these events other Spokane Juneteenth events include:

Juneteenth at Spark Central 

When: Sat, June 19, 12-7 p.m. 

• Juneteenth : A Celebration of Resistance at Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

When: Sat, June 19, 10 a.m.– 5 p.m.

• Juneteenth Comedy Night

When: Sat, June 19, 7 – 9 PM