Celebrating Juneteenth 2021- Freedom Day
Originating in Galveston, Texas in 1865, Juneteenth is the observance and celebration of the African American Emancipation. It is the oldest nationally celebrated event commemorating the end of slavery. Today, it is celebrated through marches, picnics and family gatherings, education and reflection.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Karen “Akuyea” Vargas, a long time Bainbridge Islander and community leader, about the events here on the island and in the greater Kitsap area surrounding Juneteenth this year.
Karen and her family moved to the island in 1992 when her husband’s Navy career brought them to the area. She quickly discovered that her family was one of just a handful of African American families living on Bainbridge. When she started receiving calls from the school district about the difficulties her children were enduring, she jumped into action. Karen joined the Bainbridge Island School District’s multicultural advisory committee. She spent years advocating for her children and helping other parents advocate for their own, not just on Bainbridge, but throughout the North Kitsap community. She’s worked with countless African American leaders and families to educate and teach cultural awareness, leadership and life skills training, as well as advocacy for social justice, homelessness, racism and domestic violence.
In addition to Karen’s continued commitment to educate and advocate for our multicultural communities on and off island, she has worked with the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art on exhibitions and interpretive panels. She is also a regular panelist for programs produced by the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, such as Hidden History (of the African American community), Weaving Histories, and panel discussions sharing stories and perspectives for present and past Juneteenth celebrations. Karen has been an active participant and leader in the Juneteenth celebrations on Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap since 2002.
Juneteenth 2021 Events
June 17, 2021- 7pm – 8pm, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum Virtual Program: Join Karen Vargas and community members Robert Boddie and JD Sweet, as well as other honored guests to share their own stories and perspectives, including Juneteenth celebrations going back to 2002 – click here for the link to join.
June 19, 2021 – 11am, Bremerton, WA – March and Celebration begins at Norm Dicks Government Center and proceeds through Bremerton stopping at the Marvin Williams Recreation Center and the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church (the oldest African American Church in Kitsap County) ending at Evergreen Rotary Park for a picnic (please bring your own picnic supplies), presentations, dancing, music and community fellowship.
The Bainbridge Island Race Equality Advisory Committee (REAC), the Multicultural Advisory Council and the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum will have tables at Evergreen Park following the march.
-Norm Dicks Government Center – 345 6th Street, Bremerton, WA
-Marvin Williams Recreation Center – 725 park Avenue, Bremerton, WA
-Ebenezer A.M.E. Church – 902 Park Avenue, Bremerton, WA
-Evergreen Rotary Park – 1500 Park Avenue, Bremerton, WA
Desegregating White Privilege – League of Women Voters of Kitsap County (lwv-kitsap.org)
‘A drum major for peace’: For Karen Vargas, pushing for racial equity is nothing new (kitsapsun.com)