Oak Harbor celebrates Juneteenth

Residents will join together to commemorate the newest federal holiday this weekend.

Residents will join together to commemorate the newest federal holiday and honor African-American culture this weekend.

Oak Harbor is celebrating Juneteenth on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Windjammer Park. The event is being put on by Pastor Fannie Dean of the Unity Fellowship, a group of local churches.

“Some people didn’t even know that we celebrate Juneteenth in Oak Harbor,” she said. “We go way back celebrating Juneteenth.”

She said there have been Juneteenth celebrations in the city since 1978.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Why do you keeping doing this?’” she said. “Well, because I know if I was in Georgia or in the South that they do big things for stuff like this.”

Dean said the holiday is important because it helps to educate people about Black history. Juneteenth, which is on June 19 every year, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The holiday has been celebrated since 1865 but only became a federal holiday last year.

“A lot of people that live in Oak Harbor have expressed to me that they don’t know anything about Juneteenth,” Dean said.

While she wants the event to be a learning opportunity, she also wants it to be a celebration of how far Black people have come in this country.

“We just want to have a good time,” Dean said.

“It’s a blessing to always have the thought in the back of your mind that you’ve come so far,” said Pastor Effie Boyles of the House of Prayer Church in Oak Harbor. The House of Prayer was the first church to join the Unity Fellowship. She’s in her 60s and lived through segregation.

“We had to go through the back door. We couldn’t drink from the same faucet,” she said. “I remember those days.”

Both pastors expressed the importance of talking to children about the meaning behind Juneteenth.

“We don’t want our children to forget about where our ancestors came from,” Boyles said.

The event will begin with prayer and singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “Black National Anthem.” There will be more singing and music, as well as food and activities for kids. This event is free and open to the public.

“I would like to see any person available to come to celebrate with us,” Dean said. She also expressed she wanted leaders of Oak Harbor to attend and emphasized the importance of bringing the community together.

“Joining together in Oak Harbor is so important,” she said.