PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Hundreds of people, including families and young children, gathered at a peaceful rally and march in the heart of Portland’s historically Black neighborhood to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday that has long commemorated the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
Among the crowd Friday afternoon was Elaine Loving, her two daughters and multiple grandchildren. Loving has lived in the North Portland neighborhood since 1959.
“I feel hopeful and really, really proud to see the community of whites and Blacks joining together and for white people to really understand what the significance of Juneteenth is,” she said.
Yet the moment was tinged with sadness because Loving’s neighborhood has changed so dramatically through gentrification.
“Get to know us. Get to know the pain we feel from the gentrification of our neighborhood,” she said of her white neighbors. “Now … Black families are gone and it hurts my soul.”
Further into the crowd, Vin Shambry and his wife Sarah Bentley marched with their two children, Harlowe, 6, and Vivian, 4.
Shambry, who is Black, said it was important for him to bring his family even though he fears the moment won’t last.
“For me, all this is always out-of-body because all this will happen again. I mean, this is beautiful,” he said.
Bentley, who is white, said the couple has especially struggled to navigate the past few weeks because they “live in both worlds.”
“We’re working really hard to celebrate Blackness,” she said, pointing out a hand-painted sign her older daughter made that read “Black is beautiful.”
Because of their marriage, the couple is often “the focal point and we shouldn’t be,” said Shambry.
The Portland rally was one of several planned in the region to celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the Union army brought word of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in Texas.
About 200 people gathered in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park in Washington Friday afternoon and marched on to the Interstate Bridge at about 5 p.m., shutting down Interstate 5 to southbound traffic from Washington into Oregon.
Those marching chanted, “Black lives matter,” and at one point paused on the bridge and listened to several speakers. The crowd walked back over the bridge after about 45 minutes, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Portland this week designated June 19 a paid holiday for city workers and Gov. Kate Brown plans to introduce a bill to make it a state holiday. A rally and march was also planned in Lake Oswego, a Portland suburb.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has encouraged city workers with a paid day off to do something to expand their understanding of the African-American experience in U.S. history and of racial injustice.