Jameel Williams skated through the concrete rink at Judkins Park dancing to music by renowned Black musicians, like Tupac and Outkast. He was among dozens who came out to skate Sunday afternoon to celebrate Juneteenth. 

“I absolutely adore being a queer Black man and just knowing that my community where I grew up is doing something like this … is a beautiful thing,” Williams said. “We have so many allies here.” 

Juneteenth — a national holiday commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation that freed enslaved people — was celebrated in Seattle and across the country through community events. Juneteenth marks the date, June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers informed the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, of their freedom nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Dozens also gathered at Seattle’s Othello Park and at a festival in Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District.

Many local Black-owned businesses had tents up at Judkins, including Ife Thomas, owner of Her Glow Candy Shop. Thomas grew up in the Central District and said being able to sell her merchandise during a Juneteenth event felt “full circle” for her.

“I’m reflecting on freedom and how far we’ve come as Black Americans in the country,” Thomas said. “It means a lot. It’s a lot of pride and a lot of joy.”

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The Judkins Park event was sponsored by Amazon, Boeing and Starbucks with support from 4Culture, Public Health – Seattle King County and the Northwest African American Museum. Free skates were provided, and local food trucks were there.

Highlighting Black vendors impacts the community in a positive way, Thomas said, because money gets circulated within the community and more people can see what Black-owned businesses have to offer. 

“It’s a way of having people come together under the umbrella of Juneteenth,” Thomas said. “But at the same time, we get to celebrate Black culture and Black businesses as well.”

Thomas added the city has changed a lot since she was a child and teenager and will continue to change. “It’s a challenge for Black businesses to kind of figure out where they fit in and what that means.”

Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday last year, and Edoukou Assouan said that since then there’s been a shift in how people see and understand the historic day.

“Before it became a federal holiday, it was me trying to kind of make people aware of what it is,” Assouan said. “Now it’s not as much as educating others as it is about enjoying the day.”

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Assouan, a volunteer for Roll Around Seatown, a community skate group in Seattle that participated in the Judkins event, said that since many people are off work Monday she noticed now more people understand why it’s celebrated.

But making Juneteenth a federal holiday is just the first step, Williams said. “I’m scared at how monetized things get — everybody trying to do their own little something just to get a buck off of it.”

“I appreciate the recognition,” he said. “Every dollar sold on Juneteenth should be given back to the Black communities. Start the reparations that way.”