Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

SNOHOMISH — State Sen. John Lovick treasures the day he lowered the gavel to enact the bill that made Juneteenth a state holiday in 2021.

The Mill Creek senator thought of his great-grandfather Thomas Holden, who was alive until Lovick was a teenager.

Holden was born into slavery in 1862 and lived through segregation in Louisiana.

“Sometimes, in that segregated society that we were born and raised in, they wanted you to show fear, and he just never showed fear,” Lovick said. “My great-grandfather did what he was supposed to do, but he never showed any fear.”

This year, Lovick is attending four Juneteenth celebrations.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas, and announced that more than 250,000 enslaved Black people living there were free.

The Snohomish County chapter of the NAACP and the county are hosting a celebration Saturday. Organizers are bringing speakers, music and food from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to Willis Tucker Park, 6705 Puget Park Drive, near Snohomish.

The event will include a county proclamation read by state Sen. Marko Liias and speeches from Lovick, Yvonne Terrell, who is the vice president of equity and inclusion for Edmonds College, and Kevin Henry, the diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator for Volunteers of America, on what Juneteenth means to them.

Henry, who is also the communications chair for the local NAACP, said the event will be educational, above all. For much of his life, Henry didn’t have many chances to learn about American history.

He has learned most of what he knows in the past few years.

To him, Juneteenth is a tool in the fight against discussing “a distorted, watered down version” of history.

“People don’t want to talk about slavery because it’s so upsetting to have to think about,” Henry said. “But I think if you’re going to truly teach American history, you have to teach the good and the bad of American history, not just the good.”

Last year, 75 attendees showed up on a rainy day. With better weather, Henry hopes for greater turnout.

Organizers will provide catered African food and a live DJ playing Motown and modern music.

The speakers hope to address attendees from all backgrounds and ages.

“There’s a tendency for some people to think that Black history is this separate thing that only relates to you if you’re Black,” Henry said. “But we are in this country together. So the more we understand each other, there’s more empathy, there’s more unity.”

Lovick stressed young people, in particular, need to learn the history of slavery as “our original sin.”

He also wants to encourage a nuanced understanding of Juneteenth.

He referenced Douglas Blackmon’s book “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.”

Lovick wants to tell Saturday’s attendees that for many years Black people dealt with slavery, only by another name.

“Reconstruction was only about reconstructing for Southern politicians. They were given back their dignity for having lost the war,” Lovick said. “There was no dignity for Black people; it was just called segregation.”

The state senator sees a continuity between his great-grandfather’s life and his own.

Holden had to get off the sidewalk and bow to white people.

Lovick grew up barred from “whites only” doors in Louisiana. In his first year of college, he worked picking cotton.

So, what should we celebrate?

“We can always say that there is hope,” he said. “We can see that a lot of people are ready and willing to change. We just have to take this opportunity and, like Dr. King used to say, not make it a day off, but a day on.”

Aina de Lapparent Alvarez: 425-339-3449; aina.alvarez@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @Ainadla.

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