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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Juneteenth 2024: How and where to ‘bring celebration to Spokane’

Freda Gandy and Jada Richardson, with the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, discuss an upcoming Juneteenth event at a Juneteenth kickoff Thursday in Spokane.  (Alexandria Osborne/The Spokesman-Review)
By Alexandria Osborne The Spokesman-Review

When the Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition’s Pillar Awards started in 2014, they were small enough to be held in the MLK Center. They’ve grown so much that the event this year is being held at the Fox Theater.

“Something positive is happening.,” said Alan Jones, Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition co-chair.

To mark the June 19 holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, the Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition felt there was a need to honor and uplift people in the Black community and recognize ways they’re involved throughout the Spokane area, Jones said.

The Pillar Awards is a black-carpet event, but there is no dress code for attendees, so people can wear what they feel most comfortable in, he said. But the event is set up similar to the Oscars, with award winners being honored.

“It gives a way for the community to get to know others in the community, because a lot of times we don’t know everyone and who does what in the community,” Jones said. “This is a way people can see and find out and learn about other areas of the community that they might not be aware of.”

This year, he is looking to see new faces, because more people are aware of the event and deciding to show up.

“A lot of times, Seattle, Portland and a lot of the Pacific Northwest cities get a lot more recognition and love for different events like this,” Jones said. “We felt that this time, Spokane needs to be part of that where people say, ‘Spokane does that also,’ then we can start having people coming from across the state to come to these types of things.”

Doors open 6 p.m. Friday at the Fox Theater, and the awards show starts at 7 p.m. The Pillar Awards is the first of multiple Juneteenth events held through the Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition.

A pre-Father’s Day brunch – another dedication event – is on Saturday with R-Jay Barsh as the keynote speaker. Barsh is an assistant coach with the Gonzaga men’s basketball team.

Jones said the brunch is designed to praise and give recognition to fathers in the community.

“Mother’s Day gets a lot of the praise a lot of the time, but we know there are a lot of fathers out there and male mentor figures and father figures, especially in this day and age when men of color get a lot of bad stigma when it comes to fatherhood,” he said. “We try to find ways to make sure we’re acknowledging them, letting them know that you matter.”

The brunch allows fathers in the community to get together and praise each other while also helping each other out, Jones said.

“A lot of times the stereotype from male men of color is that they’re not present in their children’s lives, and we want to make sure we try to reverse that and try to change that narrative,” he said.

The brunch is at noon Saturday at the Spokane Community College Lair Student Center.

NYC’s Jazzy R&B Duo, featured on HBO, will be coming to Spokane for the first time for their performance titled “A Night Out with Acute Inflections.”

The nationally known jazz pair have been performing in Seattle, Portland and other jazz festivals across the country. Jones said this is the first time they are going to be in Spokane.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Monday evening at the Spokane Community College Auditorium. Tickets range from $15-35.

The Spokane Indians’ Wednesday night baseball game is King Carl Night, according to the City of Spokane. The game will honor Carl Maxey, a local civil rights activist and boxer, and $1 from each ticket will be donated to the Sandy Williams Fund in honor of the Carl Maxey Center.

The Juneteenth Park Celebration at 11 a.m. Wednesday honors the history of Juneteenth and features a range of activities and vendors.

Jones said the while the events honor and represent the Black community in Spokane, it is not geared toward one culture and is open to every community and person who wants to learn and be educated about Black culture.

The Martin Luther King Jr Center is hosting a Juneteenth Community Celebration this weekend with music, food and games.

Freda Gandy, MLK Center executive director, said there will be 40 organizations at the event, primarily social service agencies, with information about the services they provide and volunteer opportunities.

She is looking forward to getting the community together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company and hopes people can leave feeling more connected, she said at a Juneteenth kickoff event Thursday.

Gandy said history is important, and more people are celebrating now that it is a federal holiday.

“We have the opportunity to remember what happened and acknowledge what happened,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to bring celebration to Spokane, to our community and just to celebrate.”

Jada Richardson, who grew up with the MLK Center, said Saturday’s events are community-centered, which is why a lot of resources will be available.

Richardson said Juneteenth is a time to relax.

“A lot of times, as Black people, we are always going, going, going,” she said. “Juneteenth is one of those days to stop, reflect and think about the freedom we’ve been provided. Even though we’re still working toward global liberation, it’s taking a moment to relax … and celebrating that progress.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 18, 2024, to correct the date of the Juneteenth Park Celebration.