Utahns take part in Juneteenth events and see the state appointment as a “step in the right direction”
Chants from “Black Lives Matter” followed by “every single day” – along with music from artists such as SZA and Lizzo – echoed through Washington Square Park on Saturday as the attendees of Juneteenth Utah’s “Summer of Love” event took place at Marched the streets in year 100-degree heat, two days after President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Meanwhile, in the Ogden Amphitheater, despite the high temperatures, hundreds of people gathered to taste fried fish and shrimp, shop at clothes stalls and enjoy musical performances by local and regional artists. Shakira Smith, a dancer from the Ngoma Y’Africa Cultural Center, guided children through an African dance routine on stage while parents cheered and videotaped from the seats of the amphitheater.
On June 19, 156 years ago, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to ensure the liberation of all enslaved people – two years after the signing of the Declaration of Emancipation and two months after the Confederation surrendered.
Saturday, June 10th, is the first day a federal holiday, but members of the Utah Black Community have held events to commemorate the anniversary in Ogden and longer in Salt Lake City for over three decades.
“We’re here for a really terrible reason; it’s not a festival, ”said organizer Natasha Cadet at the start of the event in Salt Lake City. “This event is about black communities, the black and brown communities, BIPOC. present and support and strengthen and unite [Black, Indigenous and people of color]… We can all trace back, we are all distant relatives, all love. This is the summer of love. “
[Related: Upcoming Juneteenth Events]
“It’s kind of bittersweet”
People at Saturday’s events said they were glad the holiday was recognized, but many said it was taking too long and not enough.
“I’m glad people are starting to understand that we are just like everyone else and want to help celebrate … and what Juneteenth really means,” said Kylie Jackson, Ogden Juneteenth participant who last organized one Protests against Black Lives Matter in Logan has helped year.
Niecie Jones, a participant in Ogden’s event, said she thinks it’s great that Juneteenth is a federal holiday, but she also thinks that his creation feels performative because there is so much other work to be done. She said she wanted to see things like economic reparations, talks about police reform, and laws that support black lives in more meaningful ways than having a day off.
Aniya Howling, also an Ogden participant, said she was grateful that the holiday was recognized but said it should have happened a long time ago.
“I didn’t know it wasn’t a federal holiday until [recently]”Said Mehkai Jones, a Layton rapper who performed at the Salt Lake City event. “It was a great thing… but it’s kind of bittersweet. I was like, ‘Great.’ And then I thought: ‘Hardly?’ But it is a step in the right direction. “
‘Let it go’
Ria Agarwal and Chloe Coleman-Houghton both attended last year’s event in Salt Lake City in June and also participated in protests against racial injustice last year. The two wanted to continue supporting efforts in the city this year, while also checking out some of the local BIPOC vendors who were present at the event.
Agarwal said she felt there had been some steps in the right direction, particularly with the policy changes in Minnesota regarding police brutality, but that people are not losing sight of the “greater system of violence against black Americans.” should.
“We [both] I felt we should take it further, ”said Coleman-Houghton. “Although many of the protests are no longer as good as they were last year, I find it so important to get this message across and show your support for communities that need it.”
Some Saturday attendees said they came out partially to learn more about Juneteenth.
Not black siblings Crystal and Javier Martinez said they attended Ogden’s event to learn more about the day. Shay Pace, who is white, went to support her friend who was performing at the event. She said there was a lot to learn and see at the festival.
“More people should be attending,” she said.
“A time to come together and support one another”
During the march in Salt Lake City, leaders sang “Say Your Name” and “Say His Name” while participants responded by shouting “Breonna Taylor” and “George Floyd”.
Protesters gathered around Washington Square Park in the sweltering heat, with organizers distributing water and spraying attendees regularly with spray guns to cool off. Some danced for hours to SZA’s “Good Days” or Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”.
Dawn Kearney, who sang at the Salt Lake City event, said the holiday was especially important for black people given the current racial climate and the state of Utah.
“This is the day to celebrate the history and real freedom of our people,” said Kearney. “I think that’s when we should be celebrating things. We have seen America whitewash things many times. We often see blacks deliberately taking a back seat on many historical events, and I think this is a time to celebrate and a time to educate and a time to come together and support one another. “
The next step, according to Jones, is to “move from Black Lives Matter as a hashtag or political stance” to “literally just a statement about life and just the worth of people”.
Although problems of racial inequality have only emerged for many people in the past few years, Kearney said, Black people have always grappled with this reality, so she hopes there can be progress beyond superficial actions as well.
“Painting a street ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t really help black people’s lives,” said Kearney. “Police reform or defusing the police, stuff like that and education and policymaking, that’s what actually helps the black community … That’s what I really want to change.”