“I grew up in a socially active community,” said Athena Lynch, the organizer of the second annual Juneteenth Day celebration at Congress Square Park in the arts district of Portland today. That is how this artist knew about Juneteenth – the day in which the enslaved people of Texas were told they were free and no longer slaves. Texas was the last state in the nation to learn of abolition.
Although she did not appear at the Congress Square Park celebration, Mayor Kate of Portland proclaimed June 19th Juneteenth Day in Portland. Regretably, Mayor Kate of Portland did not deliver the message in person where it would have had a greater impact than having a surrogate deliver it for her.
About a dozen vendors lined the sides of the Park promoting their messages and in some cases selling their products to the 200 or so people who attended the Celebration. This is the second year that Athena Lynch has organized the celebration.
One of those vendors with a timely message was Skye Gosselen, a staff member for Maine Youth Justice. It’s a nonpartisan campaign fighting to end youth incarceration of Maine youth and invest in a range of community based supports that respond to young people’s needs, support families and build community. The campaign supports the reinvestment of the $18.6 million being used to lock up youth to fund community based organizations. The group is waiting to hear from Governor Mills next week on whether or not she will support the efforts by Maine Youth Justice.
This past Thursday President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that made Juneteenth a federal holiday. In a White House ceremony, he honored 94 year-old Texas native Opal Lee for her persistence in working to establish this as a national holiday. As a twelve-year old child in Texas, her family was burned out of their home by white supremasist – yet she has persisted in her goal of making June 19th a national holiday.
Athena is from Newark, New Jersey. She is employed at her alma mater Maine College of Art, Portland.
Today celebrations such as the one at Congress Square Park have occurred all over the nation. Other cities have held parades, performances and pageants.
Please see post herein dated June 19, 2020 for more background information on the Portland Juneteenth Celebration in Portland.