(Update: Adding video, lawmaker comment)
June 19 widely recognized as the day slavery in the US officially ended
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Riccardo Waites, the founder of the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, said Friday the Oregon House recognizing Juneteenth as a formal state holiday brings "legitimacy" to the day.
On Thursday, the Oregon House unanimously passed HB 2168 to officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. The bill now moves to the Senate.
“I think it’s a really good step in the right direction," Waites told NewsChannel 21 on Friday. "It shows that Oregon as a state is looking for equality.”
In 2001, Oregon adopted Senate Joint Resolution 31, declaring June 19 as a day of observance.
Waites hopes the bill will pass in the Senate, educating Oregonians on the importance of the date.
“It’s important that people not of color understand that this is an important holiday for us," Waites said. "We welcome them to celebrate with us. It should be an American holiday for everyone, because that’s the day slavery really was ended.”
State Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, was one of the unanimous votes for the bill.
“I think it was really important for us to vote on that last night and make it a state holiday," Kropf told NewsChannel 21 on Friday. "(We need to) acknowledge our past and tackle our long-standing systemic racism in this country.”
News release from Oregon House Democrats:
|Oregon House Passes Bill Making Juneteenth Official State Holiday|
|HB 2168 will establish Juneteenth as an official state holiday, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved peoples in the U.S. and celebrating the dignity, freedom and contributions of Black Americans.|
|SALEM, OR—The Oregon House passed House Bill 2168, which would make Juneteenth an official state holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved peoples in the U.S., while also celebrating the dignity, freedom and contributions made by Black Americans. The bill formally establishes Juneteenth on June 19. |
In 1945, Clara Peoples introduced Juneteenth to Oregon during her work break, celebrating the day at the Vanport shipyards. Peoples and Black Oregonians have made long-lasting contributions to Oregon’s history and cultural legacy that have led us to this moment.
“We remember the legacy of Clara Peoples, ‘Mother of Juneteenth,’ and the annual celebrations that kept this tradition alive long before this holiday was officially recognized,” said Rep. Janelle Bynum (D- Clackamas), Chair of the BIPOC Caucus.
In Oregon, the Legislative Assembly adopted Senate Joint Resolution 31 in 2001, to declare observance of "Juneteenth, June 19 of each year, to be a day for celebration statewide of the dignity and freedom of all citizens."
“By making Juneteenth an official state holiday, we can both confront and acknowledge our shameful history of racial discrimination and white supremacist violence, while celebrating and recognizing the contributions Black Americans have made and continue to make in the face of systemic inequities,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland), chief sponsor of the bill. “Juneteenth can help Oregon look to a future of racial equity and justice.”
The first Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas in 1866, where Black communities gathered for parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings, as well as musical performances. In 1980, Texas officially made the day a holiday, and since, 47 states and the District of Columbia have commemorated the day by marking it either as a state holiday or observance.
The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and now moves to the Senate.