by Chamidae Ford
Ann Okwuwolu, the festival creator, is a former medical technician who was inspired to start the celebration in 2015 when she realized the lack of black representation at New Holly community events.
“Everything was geared towards other people. And so we had no visibility, ”said Okwuwolu.
She decided to take the matter into her own hands and start an event to celebrate June 10th. In her initial organization, she soon realized how little people knew about the holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery in the US and is not often studied in schools.
“White Americans want to tell you the story. You want to be a storyteller. And when you are a storyteller you have the power to tell people who they are and what they should be and what they should be worth and what they should accept, you tell them where they are from, ”Okwuwolu, now Creative Director of It Takes A Village – AMSA Edition said.
Okwuwolu saw an opportunity to share the true story of Juneteenth through their festival. It has included opportunities to learn about the holiday and what it means to black Americans, while also providing an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate. Talking will allow participants to hear stories about their ancestors and the importance the holiday has to the community.
“There are a lot of juneteenth events and there will be more juneteenth events,” said Okwuwolu. She believes that her integration of education and instruction in the story of the holiday will help make the Othello Park event stand out from the rest.
The event will also feature music, food, and vendors. The food is prepared by Okwuwolu himself and a variety of caterers such as The Comfort Zone Kitchen and Vegan Spirit Food.
“Food was really important at Juneteenth,” said Okwuwolu. “Also the colors of food, with red being a very significant color for the blood and sacrifices of people and their ancestors and people who fought in war and the bloodshed that was shed on the plantations during slavery really important. ”
Okwuwolu also says the event is an opportunity to keep ancient and historic food alive, like a recipe her grandmother never wrote down for tea cakes. “That was one of the things she would do [make]before she died, for the Juneteenth. “
DJ Remi, Logic Amen and DJ MIXX America will all be performing at the event. And Nikkita Oliver, a Seattle City Council candidate, and Elmer Dixon, a founder of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party, will speak. Washington Diamonds Drill Team & Drumline will perform, and there will also be a twerk shop with Tricia Diamond.
The event is also unique in that it provides access to a wide range of resources, from health care to employment opportunities. King County Public Health will be one of the main vendors and sponsors of the celebration.
Daphne Pie, the Regional Health Services Administrator for King County Public Health, emphasized that the main goal of public health in attending the festival is to introduce attendees to the many resources available.
“It’s a really great way to reach out to the black community in particular,” said Pie. “In terms of public health, we just want to eliminate health inequalities, make sure the black community has access to health care, and really educate them about the services we offer.”
Public health will help people get health insurance, find out their eligibility for discounted Orca cards, and enroll people in food programs. There will even be a dental truck on-site to provide immediate dental assistance to those who need it. They will also be offering COVID-19 vaccines.
“To address health inequalities, we need to give people access to medical care,” said Pie. “One of the things we want people to do is get health insurance. We want people to know what options they have for health insurance. “
While the June 10th celebration was held virtually in 2020, Okuwolu looks forward to being in person again this year and helping her community get back on its feet. In addition to the available public health resources, Safeway and the Swedish Medical Center will be on hand to fill vacancies at the two companies.
“The main goal of my event is that we come together after this long, exhausting period of COVID so that the community gets the resources we really need,” she said.
Chamidae Ford is currently a Senior Journalism Major at the University of Washington. Born and raised in West Washington, she has a passion for giving voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. You can reach Chamidae Ford at IG / Twitter: @chamidaeford.
? Featured Image: Ann Okwuwolu and her daughter in Jefferson Park in Seattle, WA. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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