Washington celebrates Juneteenth for first year as a paid state holiday

SPOKANE, Wash — For the first time ever, Washington is recognizing Juneteenth as a paid state holiday.

Juneteenth marks the day slaves in Texas were freed.

The Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition has been hosting celebrations for the past 11 years.

“Now, we’re coming forward to 2021 to where we’ve been pushing it, we’ve been in a lot of petitions with the state, a lot of petitions with the federal government, as a more national and state level,” said Alan Jones, Co-chair for the coalition.

For them, this is a step in the right direction.

“Just the fact that it has more recognition and more visibility, it’s encouraging because more people can understand the meaning behind the holiday. and also just the history behind the holiday,” said Michael Bethely, Co-chair for the coalition.

While the coalition has been celebrating for the past 11 years, the first Juneteenth celebrations in Spokane happened in the 1980s.

“My grandparents along with one of my best friend’s grandparents helped foster this event back in the days, where they lived here when they were young and had school-age students,” said Jada Richardson.

Richardson is being trained to eventually take over the Juneteenth celebrations for the Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition. She explains, while progress has been made, they still have a long way to go.

“It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s also like yay, you know,” Richardson said. “I think that with it being a federal holiday now, we’ve run into a little bit more ignorance around freedom and what it looks like and liberation and what it can look like, so now it’s more of a waiting game.”

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