Juneteenth: Honoring Freedom and Advocacy

Last updated: June 14, 2023, at 9:35 a.m. PT

Originally published: June 14, 2023, at 9:35 a.m. PT

A flag waves in the wind "Juneteenth - Freedom Day"

This Juneteenth, we celebrate freedom in our Washington communities and honor the YMCA of Greater Seattle's legacy of advocacy and partnership with young, Black scholars.  

Let's take a trip back to March 31, 1966, when the Seattle School Boycott for integration sparked the establishment of "Freedom Schools" at the Meredith Mathews East Madison Y and the Bellevue Family Y. These schools were inspired by the Mississippi Freedom Schools and aimed to combat racial inequalities in education. The movement gained momentum, with around 3,000 students participating in the boycott, demanding integration and equality.  

  The involvement of students of all races in the Freedom Schools showcased the power of community coming together for meaningful change. Their stand together highlighted their unity of purpose and shared commitment to justice and the importance of integrated schools. The dedication of teachers like Dick Warner, who taught at the Mount Zion Freedom School, exemplified the responsibility of active citizenship and participation.    

Today, we are fortunate to have advocates and educators who continue to work tirelessly to ensure the success of our communities. Authors such as Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au, and Dyan Watson, who wrote Teaching for Black Lives, inspire us with their vision of celebrating, affirming, and humanizing Black people through education, policy, and the pursuit of equity and racial justice in classrooms.  

At the YMCA, we embody advocacy and strive for change through purposeful programs that support our BIPOC and underserved youth and their families, offering career-readiness initiatives, outdoor leadership programs, and college success programs like Y Scholars. Our vision is a world where every student feels empowered, uplifted, and on a path to a joyful and fulfilling life.    

We invite you to join us in celebrating freedom by participating in our Juneteenth Reading Challenge and attending local Juneteenth events. Let us come together, learn, and embrace the transformative power of education and community as we continue the journey toward equity and justice for all.  

This Juneteenth, let us stand united, honoring our legacy of freedom and resilience with our gaze set on a brighter tomorrow for all. Together, we can create a world where every voice is heard, every dream is nurtured, and every person is afforded the opportunity to realize their full potential and thrive.  


In community and gratitude,  

Loria Yeadon 

President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Seattle