‘It’s okay to learn your history’: Nonprofit leader encourages others to learn about Juneteenth

SPOKANE, Wash.– Celebrations were underway Friday in cities across the nation as people marked Juneteenth. The holiday is getting more attention than ever this year as the Black Lives Matter Movement gains renewed support.

The CEO of Spokane nonprofit Operation Healthy Family would like to see local Juneteenth celebrations turn into what we tend to see on the 4th of July.

“Juneteenth should be an Independence Day for all people,” Tommy Williams, Jr. said.

It was on this day in 1865 that a Union officer read the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in Texas. The life-changing news came about two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the order.

“It’s always been a positive because people were free, two and a half years after freedom supposedly happened. So, let’s celebrate that,” Williams, Jr. said.

The celebration is especially important for Williams and his family because one of his sons was born on June 19. He explained that his wife had a c-section, so when given a choice about what day to schedule it, they picked June 19 for a specific reason.

“We chose June 19 because of this day and we wanted to make sure he knows when he talks about his birthday, he talks about the history of his ancestry,” Williams, Jr. said.

It’s a history that Williams, Jr. shares through his nonprofit, too. Operation Healthy Family Spokane (OHF) is a faith-based group serving low-income families. It includes an oral health initiative and a youth sports club program, to name a few. OHF is currently raising money to build a community center focused on racial reconciliation.

Williams, Jr. encouraged everyone to take part in learning about Juneteenth and recognizing the history that connects us all.

“It’s okay to learn your history. It’s our history,” Williams, Jr. said. “Juneteenth, everything. It’s ours. We own it. So this is a time for us to own this holiday.”

The Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition’s Juneteenth event begins online at 6 p.m. Friday. It will be broadcast live on Facebook and Youtube.

RELATED: Organizer for local Juneteenth event encourages all to join in celebration

Activists demand police reform outside Spokane City Hall on Juneteenth

How to celebrate Juneteenth in the Inland Northwest

Washington bill proposes making Juneteenth a state holiday