The following is a blog post from Dominique Whittaker in collaboration members of the BIPOC Advisory Board.
June is not only the month of Pride, the beginning of Summer, when we play our rivals in the fishing village to the North, but it also is when we reflect and celebrate Juneteenth. For millions of Americans, Juneteenth is Independence Day. Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and 19th), also known as “Freedom Day,” commemorates the day, June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the abolition of slavery and the liberation of all enslaved African Americans who remained in bondage after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued and instated in America, two-and-a-half years later.
In Portland, the first Juneteenth celebration took place in 1945, when shipyard worker and community leader, Clara Peoples, coordinated the first "Juneteenth" celebration at the Kaiser shipyards with her co-workers. Clara helped to make Juneteenth recognized by Portland in 1972 before becoming a statewide holiday in 2001. Juneteenth honors the resilience of Black People and to me, is about the freedom to live your life how you want, learning about the Black experience throughout history, and celebrating joy with community around you. If you’re interested, Juneteenthor.com hosts a ton of information on local events and is run by the non-profit organization created by Clara Peoples and her family.
Here are a few:
What does any of this have to do with soccer? Everything. Did you know, first Black professional soccer player in the U.S. was Gil Heron, who in 1946, debuted with the Detroit Wolverines in the NASFL (and is also the father of musician Gill Scott-Heron)? As the only Black player, he was often singled out for abuse by other players and fans. His wife shared that after matches, Gil had to rub his legs with alcohol to soothe heal marks from players’ studs. In a time where living while Black is fraught and dangerous, players not only have to deal with life off the pitch but deal with abuse on the pitch (here are just a few recent incidents: U.S.A vs Mexico match, Jeremy Ebobisse, Damion Lowe, and Diego Chara). Players, just like everyone else, lean on one another and their communities to navigate and weather those moments. Discrimination and hate doesn’t stop once you enter Providence Park, but what kind of person are you when you witness it or hear about it? Who are we?
#Juneteenth, #OregonHistory, #CelebrateJuneteenth, #TogetherThereWillBeChange, #RCTID, #BAONPDX