Port Angeles City Council recognizes Juneteenth

PORT ANGELES — A unanimous Port Angeles City Council has voted to recognize today as Juneteenth.

The council on Tuesday passed a proclamation recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth, which celebrates the freeing of slaves in 1865. The council directed staff to draft an ordinance adding Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples Day to the municipal code.

“I think this is long overdue,” Council Member Mike French said in the Tuesday meeting.

Mayor Kate Dexter opened the meeting by reading the Juneteenth proclamation into the record.

The unofficial holiday, which is also known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, the city proclamation reads.

No city-sponsored Juneteenth events are planned in Port Angeles today.

In Port Townsend, a Black Lives Matter mural is being created on Water Street before a Juneteenth celebration planned by the Jefferson County chapter of Black Lives Matter at 11 a.m. today.

The Freedom March will begin at Pope Marine Park. After hearing from speakers, the group will begin marching at 11:45 a.m. to the intersection of Haines Place and Sims Way for a protest rally.

The Port Angeles Juneteenth proclamation acknowledges that “implicit and institutional bias and discrimination exists in aspects of society: criminal justice, education, housing, health care, finance and more.”

“As a city, we will work in concert with policymakers and others to make systemic improvements with the goal to eliminate the implicit and institutional biases and barriers that inhibit every person’s success,” the Port Angeles proclamation reads.

“Whereas, it is necessary for all of us to educate ourselves about any inequities and violence that continues in our society and to take action to make clear inequities and violence against any ethnic, religious, racial or cultural group is antithetical to our core values and mission and must not be tolerated.”

The Port Angeles proclamation affirms that the city “stands in condemning racism and violence and pledges to support actions that seek a dismantled systemic inequity and bias, confront hate and violence and more fully practice the city’s statement of values toward all in our community.”

As a follow-up to the proclamation, Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin suggested that Juneteenth be added to the city’s municipal code.

“I would like to recommend that we also do that with Indigenous Peoples Day, the second Monday of October,” Dexter said.

“The idea being that we would bring it back to the July 7 meeting to start the process of an ordinance adoption.”

In 2018, the Port Angeles City Council voted to honor Native Americans and their cultures by proclaiming the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.

This year’s Indigenous Peoples Day is Oct. 12.

Dexter said she would confer with Frances Charles, chair of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, before the next council meeting on the Indigenous Peoples Day and Juneteenth ordinances.

“If they would like to have it be a separate process, then we can honor that moving forward,” Dexter said.

French said he spoke about Juneteenth in a June 19, 2018 council meeting and was pleased to see the holiday return to the council dais.

“It’s great to see two years later us actually making some process towards really recognizing this holiday,” French said.

“I’m interested to see that ordinance, and hopefully to follow it up with legislative agenda-making, discussing this with our state and federal legislators because this is a holiday that deserves to be a national holiday.

“This is part of the education process by which I think that we can start to heal some of our national wounds around these issues,” French added.

“So I fully endorse this.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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