SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Juneteenth is a day filled with pride and heritage for many African Americans.
It’s the combination of the words June and 19th which marks the day in 1865 when Union Soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas. It signified the end of the Civil War and that enslaved people were free.
Now, 155 years later, the holiday is celebrated across the nation.
That includes here in Salt Lake County. On Friday, Mayor Jenny Wilson held the Utah Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival.
“This is vitally important to our culture right now, and I can’t talk about it without getting teary-eyed about it,” said Kaletta Lynch.
Lynch attended the event with her family.
“I wanted my kids to come out here and see that it’s not only important to us, but it’s important to others who are now trying to learn about Juneteenth and what it actually means to our culture,” she said.
The event comes as racial tensions are high across the world with the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
“It was very important for Mayor Jenny Wilson to initiate this conversation,” said Emma E. Houston, Salt Lake County Training Development Facilitator. “When you think about a celebration of Juneteenth, when you think about 155 years ago, that individuals that work in her building were not deemed human.”
The state of Utah recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday in 2016. There is now a push to have it recognized as a national holiday.
“Juneteenth should be a national holiday,” said Rep. Ben McAdams. “It’s already a holiday here in the state of Utah. This is such an important part of our American history. It’s not a part that we’re proud of, but it’s apart of our American history, and I think we need to acknowledge that.”
The Juneteenth flag is now flying along with the American Flag and Utah’s state flag outside the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City.
In addition to the Utah Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival, the group Juneteenth Utah held an event at the Salt Lake City and County Building.
On Friday afternoon hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the Black community.
There was music, performances, and dancing well into the night, along with people shopping from Black-owned businesses, vendors, and food trucks who attended the event.
Organizers tell ABC4 News, that although they took a break from protesting, they will not stop fighting for injustices here in Utah and across the nation.
“Juneteenth was the official liberation of our people but it’s not true. We haven’t really been liberated in this country so the fight is continual,” said Abena Bakenra, an organizer with Juneteenth Utah. “Make sure you’re doing the work continually at home. It’s not just showing up for a protest, it’s checking your family members at home, having those difficult conversations and educating yourself about what it means to be an abolitionist and the liberation of Black people.”
Organizers also had groups registering voters. Juneteenth attendees say they want change and plan to make their voices heard at the polls.