Africatown Community Land Trust Celebrates Juneteenth

By United Way of King County, on June 30, 2024 | In News, Racial Equity

This blog post was written by Kayla Dunn, United Way of King County Editorial Associate.

Juneteenth marks our nation’s second Independence Day. Although Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, the news that enslaved Black Americans had been freed did not reach those in the westernmost Confederate states for another two and a half years.

Union troops finally marched into Galveston Bay on June 19, 1865, declaring freedom and liberating 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas. (It is important to note, however, that Indigenous reservations still enslaved people until 1866.) Juneteenth quickly became a day of celebration for Black Americans in Texas, and it eventually spread across the country.

In 2021, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday. Among the local organizations that honored Juneteenth last week was Africatown Community Land Trust, a member of the United Way-funded Black Community Building Collective.

On June 19, 2024, thousands gathered to celebrate the holiday at Jimi Hendrix Park in Seattle. Cars were parked bumper to bumper for blocks radiating out from the heart of the celebration, and the streets were gridlocked as even more party-goers attempted to gather.

Walking through the streets of Columbia City on Juneteenth felt like the Fourth of July in rural America; families were gathered on their front lawns with grills, coolers, and lawn chairs. Kids played ball in the streets, and old men nursed Rainiers. The whole neighborhood smelled like a barbecue.

“Happy Juneteenth,” one man called from his porch. Approaching Africatown Land Trust’s Summer of Soul Juneteenth event, the music, chatter, and fanfare grew.

“It is not a handout; it is what is owed,” chanted a woman from the mainstage. The crowd echoed her.

Running parallel to the stage, a massive sign declared: “Reparations, the making of amends for a wrong one has done by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.”

The festival is organized by King County Equity Now in partnership with Africatown Community Land Trust’s Summer of Soul series. United Way funds ACLT through our Black Community Building Collective.

“What we’re uplifting is the opportunity to engage in activities around Black joy because there are so many spaces for us that have not been safe historically, even today,” said Kennesha Poe-Buycks, Africatown Community Land Trust’s communications and marketing manager.

A food truck selling po boys proudly declared that ‘life’s too short to eat flavorless food.’ A man named Ali sold handcrafted sweetgrass baskets from Senegal. Women circled booths selling hair beads.

And people did celebrate. Thousands watched as singers, dancers, and speakers took the stage one after the other from noon to 8 p.m.

Debra Chester, a Columbia City resident, watched the festivities with her family from a shaded spot in the grass. She said she’s been coming to the festival for 8 years.

“This is my community, and I get alive with the blackness,” Chester said, smiling. “I love the vendors, the food, the family feel.”

United Way of King County prioritizes investments in racial equity work because we believe in a more equitable future for everyone.


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