Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a day commemorating the official end of slavery in the United States and our nation’s newest federal holiday.
To Riccardo Waites, founder of the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, Juneteenth is a chance to celebrate a day in history.
More importantly, it is a chance for others to learn about that history and acknowledge what Black Americans still go through today.
“We’re not actually free, we’re still in a struggle to receive our freedom,” Waites said. “So it’s important to celebrate the history and educate yourself on this day.”
This Juneteenth is different than any other, because for the first time, it is recognized nationally as a federal holiday.
Waites says while he appreciates this, progress still needs to be made.
“The federal anti-lynching bill for Black people for instance, how long is it going to take for us to pass a bill where Black people feel safe and know that it’s a hate crime if they’re hung?” Waites said. “There’s just many bills, there’s local police reform bills in the state of Oregon that are more important.”
Waites adds that local events like ‘Take Back the Butte’ serve as great educational tools.
“We want everybody to know that in the 20’s the KKK was strung here and that they marched up this butte, because this butte is used for weddings now, it’s going to be used for a graduation on Juneteenth as well,” Waites said. “We kind of want to remove that stigma.”
A day to learn, a day to connect, but still a day to celebrate.
“White people get out there,” Waites said. “Get out there, meet people of color, this is the day to do that.”
‘Take Back the Butte’ will take place 11 a.m. Saturday at Pilot Butte in Bend.