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New-to-Bellingham event 'signifies what we embody as a nation and what we want to become'

Juneteenth is celebrated across the U.S. But what is this holiday about?

Juneteenth is celebrated all over the United States every year, but do you know what it is? Do you know why it is significant, currently and historically? Find out more about the holiday, which traditionally falls on June 19.
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Juneteenth is celebrated all over the United States every year, but do you know what it is? Do you know why it is significant, currently and historically? Find out more about the holiday, which traditionally falls on June 19.

Freedom and unity will be celebrated this weekend during Juneteenth in Bellingham.

The event is huge in Texas and other parts of the South, and an organizer of the local gathering hopes it will become big here as well — and bring with it the energy, spirit and power of those occasions.

Black Lives Matter Bellingham is hosting the event 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at Maritime Heritage Park.

Juneteenth combines "June" and "nineteenth."

It commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and that all remaining slaves in the state were free. That occurred about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in January 1863.

There were an estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas at that time, according to historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States, according to Juneteenth.com.

It also is known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day and Black Independence Day.

The Bellingham celebration will include live music by funk/soul/R&B cover band Groovebot, step dance, food vending, a gospel choir, a "conscious conversation" with Bre Haizlip and a community open mic.

People are encouraged to bring food and blankets to spread on the grass around the park's amphitheater for what's being described as a community picnic.

To Jazzmyn Hannah, one of the organizers, Juneteenth is among the few holidays to celebrate how far the U.S. and its people have come as a nation.

"Juneteenth allows for that," said Hannah, of Black Lives Matter Bellingham.

The event signifies what we embody as a nation and what we want to become, Hannah said, adding that Juneteenth was an integral holiday to her as an American and as a black American.

It signals hope. It's a chance for all people to come together in celebration, and to commemorate the accomplishments of African Americans. It represents America staying together as a whole, according to Hannah.

"Juneteenth stands for all of our liberation together," Hannah said, adding that it showed that "to stand for freedom for all of our citizens is American. It's not necessarily black or political. It's our culture."

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

If you go

What: Bellingham Juneteenth Celebration. The event is free and open to the public. ASL interpreter(s) will be provided.

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Maritime Heritage Park, 500 W. Holly St. in Bellingham. The park is wheelchair-accessible.

Details: The Bellingham event can be found on Facebook.

Learn more: juneteenth.com and juneteenthbellingham@gmail.com.

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