We are a local Oregon-based nonprofit working to preserve and amplify the history and legacy of Juneteenth–founded by the late Clara Peoples, a beloved community leader who organized Oregon’s first Juneteenth celebration in 1945.
What is the Significance of Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth “Independence Day” or “Freedom Day,” is an annual holiday to commemorate the day Union troops enforced the abolition of slavery and the liberation of all enslaved African Americans who remained in bondage in Texas until June 19,1865—over two years after the emanicpiation proclaimation was issued and instated in America.
On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation effectively ending slavery on January 1, 1863. However, the Proclamation had little effect in the State of Texas until two and half years later. It was on June 19, 1865, that Union General Gordon Granger read General Orders No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaved are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
In 2021 Juneteenth was made a Federal Holiday. A bill was also signed in Oregon for Juneteenth to become a State Holiday the following year in 2022.
The History of Juneteenth in Oregon
Oregon’s Juneteenth celebration was founded 50 years ago by the late and beloved community leader and organizer Clara Peoples. In 1945, Peoples introduced the tradition from Muskogee, Oklahoma, to her co-workers at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland. Upon moving to Portland in that same year, Clara Peoples was surprised to learn that Juneteenth was unknown in this part of the country. She introduced the holiday to her co-workers at the Kaiser Shipyards during their break being the first Juneteenth Celebration in Oregon. Later, Peoples helped to initiate Portland’s annual citywide Juneteenth celebration in 1972.
Every year, our Juneteenth Oregon celebrations begin with a parade, followed by an array of festivities including live music and entertainment, art, food, educational booths, cultural exhibitions, community resources and a children’s play area.
Meet the dedicated leaders and organizers behind Juneteenth Oregon.
Jenelle Jack is the eldest grandchild of Juneteenth Oregon founder Clara Peoples, and the Director of Juneteenth Oregon. She is a mother, grandmother, organizer and activist.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Jenelle has been celebrating and learning about Juneteenth her entire life. In 2015, she promised her grandmother Mrs. Peoples right before she passed that she would continue her legacy Celebrating Juneteenth with all Oregonians.
Since, Jenelle has introduced and launched the Miss Juneteenth Oregon Program, which will include a Mr. Juneteenth Oregon Program series for young boys starting 2022.
The love, commitment and dedication to her family and community keeps Jenelle going along with keeping her grandmother’s legacy alive.
Jynnefer Robinson, is the youngest grandchild of the Juneteenth Oregon founder and Mother of Juneteenth, Clara Peoples. Jynnefer was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She has celebrated and volunteered for Juneteenth since she can remember.
Her sister, Jenelle Jack, convinced her to assist with Juneteenth operations after their grandmother passed away in 2015. Jynnefer has worked in the insurance industry for over 15 years and has her MBA from Marylhurst University. Jenelle and Jynnefer have continued the family tradition by involving their families in the celebration planning and teaching their children early on about Juneteenth.
Marsha Peoples Jack, MBA
The second daughter of Haley & Clara Peoples. Marsha grew up in Portland, Oregon, and received a fouryear academic scholarship to attend the University of Portland, and 34 year later decided to return to get her MBA from Marylhurst University graduating with her daughter Jynnefer Robinson.
Marsha has been a Director in Continuing Medical Education for over 37 years and currently works for Horizon CME managing medical educational conferences across the country for healthcare professionals.
Media Relations Director
Academically Heather is a Cisco Certified and trained Network Engineer, with a Master Of Science in Management Information Systems from the University of Maryland, Adelphi. Heather has spent the last 10 years of her career at Intel Corporation. Heather joined Juneteenth Oregon in 2015 as a volunteer. Her passion for civil rights, equality, inclusion and Black History quickly propelled her to director tasks and responsibilities. Heather has volunteered with many different non-profit agencies that seek to better the lives of others.
Heather feels the best way to give back is to be of service to someone or some cause that fills you with passion. Heather is delighted Juneteenth is a local, state and federal holiday nonetheless, realizing there is more work to do in her pursuit of equal rights for all.
Program Coordinator, Mini Miss Juneteenth Program
Pamela is responsible for providing support with the planning, coordination, and implementation of the Mini Miss Juneteenth program and workshops that serve girls of African American/Black descent and celebrate their heritage/culture.
She creates a welcoming, friendly, and affirming cultural academic space within the Juneteenth Oregon Program that values, respects, and promotes an appreciation for the diverse African American/Black communities. Pamela is a Kansas native and a graduate of Pittsburg State University and received her master’s in business administration from Baker University.
There is nothing I love more than making a meaningful impact in my own community. As the Coordinator for the Miss Juneteenth Oregon program, I have been given the opportunity to help prepare these young women for the obstacles they will face and share my experiences to hopefully guide them in the direction of success. I am a Portland native who has also “been around the block a few times” and seen my share of life outside of Oregon. I graduated 2016 from Winston-Salem State University with my RN-BSN and graduated in 2019 from Grand Canyon University with my master’s in healthcare informatics.
The future of the Juneteenth program is bright, and I am excited to be working with Jenelle to give the girls and future boys access to opportunities I did not have growing up and to watch them blossom into wonderful members of their own community.
Juneteenth OR Opportunities
We’re looking for event sponsors, vendors, volunteers, and parade participants for our upcoming event. We count on supporters like you to help make our Juneteenth Oregon Celebration successful. Make a donation to show your support.