The city’s second-annual Juneteenth flag raising ceremony was a celebration of community, liberation and opportunity.
The Juneteenth flag was first raised at Federal Way City Hall in 2020. The flag is a symbol to honor the Juneteenth holiday, which acknowledges the freedom of Black Americans and their liberation from slavery.
Last year, community members Trenise and Anisah Rogers fought for the city’s recognition of Juneteenth and their efforts ended up making history.
On June 18, kicking off Juneteenth weekend festivities in Federal Way, nearly 90 community leaders, elected officials, and residents gathered to honor the holiday at Federal Way City Hall.
“We must understand not everyone has the same lived experience. I truly believe in the ideas Americans have fought and died for — freedom and opportunity,” said Mayor Jim Ferrell. “I still believe that which unites us is greater than what divides us.”
State Rep. Jamila Taylor explained the history of Juneteenth, short for June 19, which became a symbolic recognition of the end of slavery in the United States.
Though the Emancipation Proclamation, which was read aloud by Rep. Jesse Johnson at the June 18 event, was signed in 1863, the end of the Civil War and slavery was announced two years later.
“When you hear people say Juneteenth is not the end of slavery, the end of slavery was a process, just like everything in America is a process,” Taylor said.
Taylor is also a co-sponsor of House Bill 1016, which made Juneteenth a state holiday beginning in 2022.
“I would love to say Washington state was the first, or the second — we were the 47th state to recognize Juneteenth,” Taylor said. “This is a step towards healing generations of trauma and it ensures we know our collective history so we can continue working for justice together and to put an end to anti-Black policies and other harms that hurt our whole community.”
On June 17 earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Speakers and performances of the Friday celebration included African American Spirituals by Robin Henderson; invocation by Pastor Joe Bowman; honored guest Buffalo Soldier First Sgt. Stephen Nave of the Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Tacoma; and a reading of Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” by Anisah Rogers.
The City of Federal Way’s Juneteenth Week proclamation was read by Rep. Taylor, Diversity Commission Chair Trenise Rogers, Federal Way Black Collective Executive Director Lyn Idahosa, Federal Way School Board Director Luckisha Phillips, Human Services Commissioner Cynthia Maccotan, Anisah Rogers, Corvilia Thykkuttathil, Louis Guidon, Stephanie Suprius, Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell, and Federal Way Council President Susan Honda.
Kids at the event were asked to gather around the flagpole to witness the flag raising. Trenton Walker sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as 13-year-old Jayden Walker raised the flag.
“It felt powerful, and like a safe space for everyone to come together and celebrate,” Jayden said. “I feel like Juneteenth is a special occasion for the African American community to say, ‘We did it.’ And we’re proud that we did it.”