Carols from “Black Lives Matter” followed by “Every Day” – along with music from artists like SZA and Lizzo – echoed in Washington Square Park on Saturday as participants of Juneteenth Utah’s “Summer of Love”. Event marched through the streets in 100-degree heat, two days after President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Meanwhile, at the Ogden Amphitheater, hundreds of people gathered despite the high temperatures to enjoy fried fish and shrimp, shop at clothing kiosks and enjoy musical performances by local artists and regional. Shakira Smith, a dancer from the Ngoma Y’Africa Cultural Center, guided the children through an African dance routine on stage as parents applauded and filmed from the amphitheater seats.

June 19, 156 years ago, Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to secure the liberation of all slaves – two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the Confederacy surrendered.

June 17 of this Saturday marks the first time the day has been a federal holiday, but members of Utah’s black community have been hosting events to commemorate the anniversary in Ogden for more than three decades, and even longer in Salt Lake City.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune). Participants chant “Black Lives Matter, Every Day” as they descend 500 South in Salt Lake City during the June 17 celebration on Saturday June 19, 2021.

“We are here for a really horrible reason; it’s not a celebration, ”organizer Natasha Cadet said at the start of the Salt Lake City event. “This event aims to present, support, empower and unify black communities, black and brown communities, BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color]… We can all go back, we are all distant relatives, that’s all love. It’s the summer of love.

[Related: Upcoming Juneteenth Events]

“It’s a little bittersweet”

Attendees at Saturday’s events said they were happy to see the vacation recognized, but many said it took too long and was not enough.

“I’m happy that people are starting to understand that we’re like everyone else and that they want to help us celebrate… and what Juneteenth really means,” said Kylie Jackson, Ogden Juneteenth participant, who helped organize a Black Lives Matter event in Logan last time. year.

Niecie Jones, a participant in the Ogden event, said she thought it was good that Juneteenth was a federal holiday, but she also thinks her creation is performative because there is so much other work to be done. to do. She said she wanted to see things like economic repairs, conversations about police reform, and laws that would support black lives in a more meaningful way than having a day off.

Aniya Howling, also an Ogden participant, said she was grateful to see the holidays recognized, but said it should have happened a long time ago.

“I didn’t know it wasn’t a federal holiday before [recently]”Said Mehkai Jones, a Layton rapper who performed at the Salt Lake City event.” It was a good thing … But it’s a little bittersweet. I was like, ‘Awesome . ‘ And then I was like, ‘Barely?’ But it is a step in the right direction.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dorian Ransom twirls his niece Imani Shelley, 2, as they join in the festivities of the 32nd annual Utah Juneteenth Festival and the holiday commemoration at the Ogden Amphitheater on Saturday 19 June 2021.

‘Maintain it’

Ria Agarwal and Chloe Coleman-Houghton both attended the June 17 event in Salt Lake City and also attended protests against racial injustice last year. The two wanted to continue supporting the effort in the city this year, while also checking out some local BIPOC suppliers attending the event.

Agarwal said she believed there had been steps in the right direction, especially with policy changes in Minnesota regarding police brutality, but that people should not lose sight of the “greater system of violence against black Americans ”.

“We [both] felt we had to keep going, ”Coleman-Houghton said. “Although many protests are not going as much as last year, I think it is so important to get this message across and show your support to communities in need.”

Some of the Saturday attendees said they had come in part to learn more about Juneteenth.

Siblings Crystal and Javier Martinez, who are not black, said they attended the Ogden event to learn more about the day. Shay Pace, who is white, went to support her boyfriend, who was performing at the event. She said there was a lot to learn and see at the festival.

“More people should attend,” she said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A young girl dances and jumps as Ogden celebrates its 32nd annual Utah Festival and Holiday Commemoration at the Ogden Amphitheater on Saturday, June 19, 2021.

“A time to come together and support each other”

During the Salt Lake City march, leaders chanted “Say her name” and “Say her name”, while participants responded by calling out “Breonna Taylor” and “George Floyd”.

Marchers gathered in the sweltering heat around Washington Square Park, with organizers handing out water and periodically spraying participants with water guns to keep them cool. Some danced to SZA’s “Good Days” or Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” while walking for hours.

Dawn Kearney, who performed at the Salt Lake City event, said the party was especially important to 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,” Kearney said. “I think that’s when we should really celebrate things. We have often seen America whitewash things. A lot of times we see black people specifically taking the backseat of a lot of historical events, and I think it’s a time to celebrate, and a time to educate, and a time to come together and support each other. “

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Natasha Cadet leads the crowd in a Black Lives Matter chant, as they descend 300 South in Salt Lake City, during the June 17 celebration on Saturday, June 19, 2021.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Noelle Jenkins sings with the crowd as she descends 500 South in Salt Lake City during the June 17 celebration on Saturday June 19, 2021.

The next step, according to Jones, is to “go from Black Lives Matter to a hashtag or political position” to “literally just a statement about people’s lives and fairness.”

Although issues of racial inequality have only arisen for many people in recent years, Kearney said, black people have always faced this reality, so she also hopes that there can be some progress. beyond superficial acts.

“Painting a ‘Black Lives Matter’ street doesn’t really help black lives,” Kearney said. “Police reform or police funding, stuff like that, and education and policy making, that’s what really helps the black community… that’s what I really want to see changed. . “

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