Gregg Simpson, march organizer, leads protesters in taking a knee during the March for Floyd on Saturday, June 6. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem residents can gather virtually or from a safe distance at a local park to celebrate Juneteenth on Friday.

The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., recognizing June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas to tell African-American slaves the Civil War was over and they were now free.

It's an official state holiday in Texas, but a push to make it a national holiday is gaining momentum as Black Lives Matter protests continue around the U.S. Many private companies have announced they'll offer employees the day off in recent weeks.

Salem-Keizer's NAACP chapter traditionally hosts a celebration, but has moved its annual event online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, they'll host a joint presentation with the Salem-Keizer School District, set to stream starting at 11 a.m. on Facebook.

That event will feature student-submitted artwork, dance, writing and poetry. More details are available on the event's Facebook page.

Gregg Simpson, who organized Salem's Black Lives Matter march on June 6, is also organizing a celebration at River Road Park in north Salem from 1-8 p.m. Friday. Barbecue essentials will be available, but attendees are encouraged to bring a meat or side dish. More information is on Facebook.

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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.