Three black friends hugging each other with smiles on their faces, outdoors under twinkling lights

As we celebrate Juneteenth, a day that holds immense significance for the Black community, we at Byrd Barr Place find ourselves reflecting on the profound history and legacy of this holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States, marking a day of freedom and liberation.

Juneteenth also serves as a powerful reminder of our shared history and ongoing quest for justice. It is a day when the community comes together to celebrate not only our past, but also our present and our future. Through festivals, parades, educational programs, and cultural events, we reaffirm our identity and our collective strength.

Why Juneteenth matters to Byrd Barr Place

This year, as we gather to commemorate Juneteenth, we do so with a renewed sense of purpose as we also celebrate 60 years of Byrd Barr Place advancing racial and economic justice by, for, and with the Black community. For six decades, we’ve been a pillar of support, advocacy, and empowerment for Black people. We honor the legacy of those who fought for our freedom and carry forward their inspiration as we continue the fight.

Created in 1964, our organization — then called the Central Area Motivation Program or CAMP — was an essential arm of the civil rights movement, tackling employment discrimination, school desegregation, and open housing. Over the years, we’ve responded to community priorities — providing essential services like energy assistance and food; supporting cultural events like the Harambee Celebration; and offering youth and family programs like the Rites of Passage Experience.

Amidst gentrification and displacement, we’ve remained committed to the Central District. We persisted for 10 years negotiating with the City of Seattle to secure the deed to our building, and raised $13 million to renovate it — preserving a cultural anchor for the Black community. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, our community’s spirit remains unbroken, and we continue to find ways to come together, honor our past, and build a bright future. This day is not just a remembrance, but a call to action.

Cultivating spaces for belonging and solidarity

Byrd Barr Place’s recent board meeting was a pivotal moment in reaffirming our commitment to serving as a community home where people feel belonging and solidarity. We discussed the pressing need for Byrd Barr Place to once again become a movement, a force for placemaking and community building in the Central District. We recognize the critical role we play in ensuring that our community remains a place where Black culture, heritage, and families can thrive.

In this regard, we are extending Juneteenth festivities to host our first annual block party on July 20th. This family reunion-style gathering will include fun activities like bouncy houses, face painting, and double dutch jump rope; music and dancing; tours of Byrd Barr Place; and good food, rekindling the sense of community and connectedness that has always been our backbone. It will be an opportunity for us to celebrate our shared history and envision the future we want to create together.

Looking to the future

As we dream of the future, we are also acutely aware of the current challenges facing our community, particularly the rise in gun violence. This is a deep concern for all of us, and it underscores the importance of creating safe spaces for our youth especially. At Byrd Barr Place, we are exploring the role we can play in supporting young people to feel secure, learn about their history, and be empowered to lead the next generation.

As we celebrate Juneteenth and our 60 years of social service and advocacy, we invite everyone to join us in the block party and other 60th events. Let’s honor our ancestors, celebrate our achievements, and recommit to the work ahead. Together, we can ensure that Byrd Barr Place continues to be a beacon of hope, resilience, and unity in the Central District and beyond.


A headshot of Dr. Angela, smiling with a brick wall in the background.

This blog was written by Byrd Barr Place CEO Dr. Angela Griffin in June 2024.