By Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell
This month, for the first time in Seattle’s history, we will celebrate Juneteenth as a legal City of Seattle holiday. I was proud to sign the legislation making this observance official and recognizing the values we associate with this special day, and which we aim to make real here in the City of Seattle: opportunity, justice, and freedom.
Along with Indigenous Peoples’ Day later this year, this will be the first time in nearly 40 years that we are celebrating a ‘new’ holiday at the City of Seattle. The last time Seattle codified a holiday the same way was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1985. Whether or not it was ‘officially’ recognized by the City, state, or federal government, we know Juneteenth is a day so many in the Black community and in South Seattle have always celebrated and recognized as a time for reflection and conversation, gathering and growth.
The oldest national celebration marking the end of slavery, Juneteenth is a reminder of the joy marked by the arrival of federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed – two and a half years after signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Moreso, it is a reminder that the struggle for freedom and equality didn’t end that day – freedom was delayed and the fight for equality continued.
Today, we reflect on our country’s complicated history – past and present. We embrace hard conversations just as we embrace one another. We identify the progress we’ve made and the progress we still need to make.
More than just a day off for municipal employees, Juneteenth is a commemoration of breaking down barriers and opening up opportunity. More than a day of free parking, Juneteenth stands for our recognition of a commitment to a better future for every person.
Further, music is core to this holiday and to community – providing a creative lens to uplift and inspire the best versions of ourselves. In that spirit, as part of our One Seattle Mayor’s Concert Series, I am excited to invite and welcome the public to a free concert on Juneteenth at 6:00 PM at McCaw Hall. In collaboration with community churches and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, this event will center Negro Spirituals and through the diverse musical traditions that have creatively evolved from them including gospel music, jazz, R&B, and hip hop. You can learn more and get your free ticket at one-seattle.ticketleap.com/juneteenth.
It is truly my honor to serve as Seattle’s second Black mayor, first AAPI mayor, and first biracial mayor. Representation matters. But leadership requires more than representation. It goes beyond having a voice at the table – it means speaking up and making that voice heard.
We need Black voices in the room more than ever. But what really counts is how we draw on our lived perspective to set priorities, drive change, and help others and the next generation. That’s why I’m so proud to have built the most diverse administration in our City’s history, led by three deputy mayors who are women of color.
As an administration, we’ve brought this perspective to set a clear mission of operationalizing equity: Expanding educational opportunity. Growing access to homeownership and taking gentrification head on. Making transit more accessible, reliable, and robust. Supporting Black-owned small businesses and giving the next generation of entrepreneurs the tools to succeed. These priorities support more than one community, they help our entire city thrive. We can celebrate our diversity as we also seek elements of commonality. Both our differences and our shared values and experiences are worth raising and uniting around. That is how we align with one another and make progress. As we strive to create One Seattle, let’s continue moving forward together.