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Central Oregon

Central Oregon groups planning first official Juneteenth celebration

March up Pilot Butte set for Saturday morning, celebration at Ponderosa Park at noon

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Groups in Central Oregon are gearing up for the first official Juneteenth celebration. 

While it is organized by a number of groups, not the city of Bend, Fathers Group President David Merritt thinks it can be an event for the whole community, following the recent approval of a bill by the state Legislature declaring Juneteenth an official state holiday. 

"Show a semblance of community and unity with everybody, not just people of color but everybody in the community because we all have to live here,” Merritt said Monday. 

June 19, 1865, now known as Juneteenth, celebrates the day the last group of slaves in Texas were made aware of their freedom.

That was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly Founder Riccardo Waites explained what that meant. 

"People in the South, they still worked for two years, at least, under the guise that they were still slaves, when they weren't,” Waites said.

Marcus Legrand, executive member of the Fathers Group, said he and the other members decided to organize this event because they have each celebrated the holiday in other areas of the country, and wanted to share the experience here. 

"Because I think a lot of us, we have come from so many other places where we celebrate Juneteenth, and now we all are here,” Legrand said. “We are trying to be able to connect with each other and it's important that we do it through a celebration, and this is a great opportunity for us to do so."

Merritt wants Juneteenth to be similar to other large celebrations in Bend.

"I know our community's small, but our voice is still important, so we just want to show that we continue as well,” Merritt said. 

Waites is leading a different event, a peaceful march on Saturday called "Take Back the Butte."

Waites said in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan used the summit of Pilot Butte to burn crosses and hold meetings.

"So what we like to do is gather the community and march back up that butte and 'take it back,' in the name of peace and equality,” Waites said.

The first "Take Back the Butte" march was held last year, and Waites said the event was spiritual and powerful.

Waites looks forward to the way Juneteenth can grow in Central Oregon.

"I think we could do a little bit better, but it's new, right?” Waites said. 

Legrand agrees.

"I think what we need to do better is to continue to communicate, as well as be transparent to what we're trying to do. Because I think if we continue to do that, I think we can build from there,” Legrand said. 

The march is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, and the celebration is set to start around noon at Ponderosa Park.

There will be various foods, historical speakers, educational tents and more.

Bend / Community / Local News / News / Top Stories
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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.



    1. Just the fact that you believe if someone believes in the policies Trump put forth than they are essentially racist, shows you have drunk the koolaid and probably no longer can have rational thoughts with people who have differing points of view. That is sad and far to common.

      1. sorry – the cult 45 members are supporting racist business as usual and are a stain on our great nation – the “point of view” argument is just another childish deception – bigotry is not a “point of view”

      2. Did he touch a nerve? seems like it, though he didn’t say all trumpers were racists, yet you took it to mean so. wonder why that is?

        1. Nerve? Nope. Just would love to here the exact policies he believes were racist. That word unfortunately has been butchered by the left lately.

      3. I hope he remembers the Emancipation proclamation was initiated by a Republican president and that in Oregon the KKK were all Democrats. The Democrats voted against desegregation including Biden’s friend and KKK member Robert Byrd but the Republicans pushed through the legislation in spite of the racist Dems.

        1. And much of the racist violence that occurred in Oregon was east of the Cascades so we can blame people by geography instead of political registry. Should we point fingers at every Oregonian who has pioneer ancestry and label them racists because their great-great-grandparents may have been? Bottom line is so what? History is just that – the past. We all need to wake up, learn from it, and move on, hopefully to a better place.

  1. I’m not sure I agree with the whole “taking back” thing. The butte never belonged to the KKK. If it did, it was reclaimed long ago by power walking folks by day, and aroused teens in backseats at night. As to the end of organized slavery in this country….that is truly something worth celebrating.

    1. Slavery still exists.
      Modern slavery is a multibillion-dollar industry with just the forced labor aspect generating US $150 billion each year.
      The current administration’s border policy is contributing both to the forced labor slave trade and sex trafficking aspects.
      Individuals who foolishly attempt to cross the border without paying coyotes from the cartel are killed.
      Guatemalans, Hondurans, El Salvadorans and Venezuelans fleeing poverty and corruption do not have the $10000to $150000 charged, (, or one of their family members must work of the debt.

      1. Easy to find fault, harder to find a solution. Starting at the source (poverty, violence, corruption) in the country of origin is one, which the Biden administration is starting to do. Until then we’ll continue to see throngs of people fleeing their homes, and the resulting situation that you mention.

  2. Hmmm.”…various foods…”? I’ve been to and very much enjoyed several Juneteenth celebrations while in Texas. There was always mighty tasty food and lots of it! Short list. Brisket, Ribs, Fried Okra, Chicken, Sausages, Cornbread…whew! All so good it’d make you want to slap your Mama!

  3. Legrand is playing the race card and this clown is a school board member? Vote him out on the next go-around, he is the threat from within.

  4. We have memorials and national holidays because our collective wants to honor, commemorate, celebrate, recognize, acknowledge, and love. How we choose to commemorate is unique to each community. I think this is a beautiful concept to begin that inclusive work so our brothers and sisters can begin to feel their humanity is not only treasured but also essential to the fabric of the United States. The suffering matters. Our love matters. Healing matters and one of the steps to healing a community, a living breathing organism, is taking time to dress the wounds. We cannot be whole unless we consider the whole body. In short, I love the heart of Bend. Well done.

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