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Juneteenth celebration planned at Pear Blossom Park

A Juneteenth celebration will be held in Pear Blossom Park, 312 E. Fourth St., Medford, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 19. [Mail Tribune/file photo]

This Saturday, 156 years will have passed since 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that the last enslaved people under Confederate control — a quarter-of-a-million Black people in the state — were declared free, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Organizations and individuals have kept June 19 alive as a holiday since the late 19th century, according to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. The National Juneteenth flag, which will fly above the Plaza and Ashland police station this weekend, was created by Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.

The Oregon Senate unanimously voted June 1 to recognize June 19 as a state holiday beginning in 2022.

In recognition of the holiday this year, Black Alliance & Social Empowerment will host a celebration in Pear Blossom Park, 312 E. Fourth St., Medford, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

BASE partnered with the Black Employee Support Team at the Oregon Department of Human Services Office of Equity and Multicultural Services for the event.

“First and foremost, it’s going to be a celebration,” said BASE team member Jessica Freedman. “Especially after the last year, [this is] something that’s going to celebrate Black lives and is less mournful than a lot of the coming together that has happened.”

The event will feature live music, a DJ, West African drumming, a large kid zone, educational activities about the history of June 19, raffles for prizes, vendors, retailers and a speaker who will highlight the history of the date and its importance today, Freedman said.

Ashland City Council will host a listening booth at the celebration, and Jackson County Library Services will be on site with a mobile van of books about Black history.

Freedman said the event brings together numerous branches of BASE’s vision for the Rogue Valley — creating a sense of community and opportunity for Black residents, youth and business owners. The day symbolizes freedom, perseverance and unity, she said.

“Part of what makes it difficult to have those difficult conversations around race and create a common ground of our shared histories — and also our unique histories — is getting to a place where it’s all out there, where we’re talking about it,” Freedman said. “So often race can be such a tricky discussion, and with that American history, slavery.”

Freedman said she hopes the widespread adoption of Juneteenth as an official holiday signifies an “unearthing of history,” and an expanding a dialogue about race.

This year’s Juneteenth celebration is an invitation to the community to come together and seize the opportunity to grow as a whole, she said.

Event details can be found on the BASE Facebook page.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.

Editor’s note: This article was updated July 2, 2021, to clarify quotes made by Jessica Freedman.