By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Hundreds gathered in Drake Park Friday to celebrate Juneteenth.
The holiday recognizes the moment on June 19, 1865, when some of the last slaves in the country found out that they were free.
“It’s a really great day for African-Americans especially to celebrate freedom and where we are today with our white allies especially, and being able to be one cohesive unit,” Josie Stanfield, an organizer of the event in Bend, said.
Many in attendance described Juneteenth as Black Fourth of July.
Central Oregon Diversity Project Organizer Adriana Aquarius said it’s a historical moment that deserves to be celebrated.
“It’s a holiday,” Aquarius said. “This is a day of importance. Just like 4th of July and all the other holidays that we have. I feel like this one needs to be just as important so that our youth growing up who don’t know about this day yet get taught at schools.”
On Thursday, Governor Kate Brown announced she will introduce a bill making Juneteenth an official state holiday.
Stanfield said she found the announcement amazing.
“I don’t see why we wouldn’t celebrate it, you know,” Stanfield said. “It’s the true Independence Day. It’s when all Americans, black and white, really got freedom.”
After the festivities in Drake Park, hundreds of residents walked up Pilot Butte to celebrate. The group aimed to reclaim a local spot that many don’t know the history behind.
“Pilot Butte is this iconic place where you can see everything, right?” Deschutes Historical Museum Executive Director Kelly Cannon-Miller said. “In 1923 there were two incidences where the Klan burns a cross on the top of Pilot Butte to send the message that they are here.”
It’s a fact Aquarius said is not often acknowledged, but ties all of Juneteenth together.
“By us marching up the Butte, we’re going to take love and we’re going to take happiness and we’re going to take light up there,” Aquarius said. “We’re getting rid of the hate that was pressed into its roots from the beginning, just symbolizing that we’re all about spreading love.”