Spokane Juneteenth celebrations honor Black culture and history

2022 marks the 11th year the Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition organized a weekend celebration of culture.

SPOKANE, Wash. —

Saturday, Black-owned businesses and organizations filled the Martin Luther King Jr. community center parking lot for Spokane’s Juneteenth celebrations.

The resource fair was just one part of Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition’s 11th annual weekend celebration of culture.

The weekend also marked the Pillar Awards which honors African-American trailblazers and influencers, a family movie night and a worship and praise service at Liberty Park.

People said providing spaces for these events is important for Spokane. According to the U.S. Census BureauSpokane’s African-American population is 2.4%.

“Growing up in this area, living in the Spokane area a lot of times you don’t get to see Black faces everyday, see Black community coming together to fellowship so it’s good to see multi-generational people come together,” Bobby Richmond, Carl Maxey Center community navigator said.

Juneteenth became a federally-recognized holiday in 2021, but celebrations in Spokane date back to the 1980s on the Fairchild Airforce Base.

Today’s Juneteenth event organizers said they share a special connection to the ones who started it all.

“Our grandparents came here and they retired here but when they came here they noticed there was a lack of Black folks in Spokane in general and there was a lack of Black people who knew about Juneteenth,” Jada Richardson said. “So Amari’s grandmother Peggie Troutt had this idea to start a celebration on the base and then she joined in collaboration with my grandparents and they started this event.”

For Richardson and Amari Troutt, modern-day Juneteenth celebrations keeps their grandparents’ legacy in Spokane alive.

“Basically just taking what they implemented and building on that and trying to make sure the purpose behind everything stays the same,” Troutt said.

Richardson and Troutt said that purpose is making room to honor Black culture even if the demographics of an area don’t reflect those being recognized.

“It’s a time for us to get together and celebrate comradery, freedom and liberation,” Troutt said. “But also working together to make sure that our community stays put together and is continuing to be built.”

Richardson emphasized the need to host these cultural celebrations in Spokane.

“It’s also important that in predominately-white areas that we have days that center Blackness and what that means for us,” Richardson said.

For Spokane, the Juneteenth coalition hosted three days of festivities, but Richmond said there’s more work to be done to keep Black history a part of our daily lives.

“The goal of this would be for this to be something education, education that’s passed through educational school systems. That children get to learn more about the history of Juneteenth, Black people, more so than just Black history month itself.”