Written by Kristen Boehm

This month, multiple events celebrating Juneteenth have been taking place in Bellingham! I was able to attend the Commercial Street Block Party on June 15, which was dedicated to what many call our second independence day. The party took place on Commercial Street between Holly and Magnolia, and featured a small market with Black-owned businesses, double dutch with the Double Dutch Divas, and screenings of original short films by filmmaker Remy Styrk.

For any readers who may not know the details of Juneteenth, here’s a quick summary: On June 19, 1865, the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas by way of Union forces. With General Order No. 3, the people there were officially informed of the end of slavery (essentially, served papers), finally enforcing the emancipation of the enslaved people in Texas. Ever since, June 19 has been a day for celebration, freedom, community, and progress. (Learn more at juneteenth.com!)

But despite being celebrated for over 150 years, Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day and Emancipation Day) was only declared a federal holiday in 2021, and some Americans may have grown up hearing very little about it. This was part of the conversation in Remy Styrk’s short film, “I Am The Hope And The Dream”, released in June 2022 and screened at the Block Party I attended. 

It’s a moving film featuring interviews with local Black community leaders, who talk about what Juneteenth is and their personal reflections around it. Whatcom County students are also shown reading General Order No. 3. The film, which was a project of Connect Ferndale, was created to educate the viewer about Juneteenth’s historical and modern significance, in Whatcom County and the country as a whole. 

Today, take 10 minutes to watch the film– it’s available for free on Connect Ferndale’s YouTube channel. Then, consider supporting Styrk’s efforts to create a part two! Styrk also has a new film officially releasing today, titled “Before I”. Discover it here.

P.S. In “I Am The Hope And The Dream”, Terrance “TeeJay” Morris (founder of the Bellingham Unity Committee) makes a point in describing why Juneteenth is for everybody. So no matter who you are, take a quick look around some event calendars and find a Juneteenth celebration near you!