‘Something that we should all be celebrating’: Juneteenth celebrated as official state holiday

Jun 20, 2022, 6:15 PM | Updated: 7:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Morning rain showers didn’t deter people from gathering at the state Capitol before making the walk to The Gateway on Monday to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the day that federal troops in 1865 freed the remainder of the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.

“This is so important for our community,” Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said. “This is about a pivotal point in American history when the last of the enslaved people were finally free, and I think this is a part of our country we should continue to celebrate and continue to learn about.”

The Utah Legislature in February passed HB238, a bill that Hollins sponsored, designating Juneteenth as an official state holiday.

“This is just not about Black history, this is about American history and something that we should all be celebrating. The same as Pioneer Day is about Utah’s history and we all celebrate it,” Hollins said.

The celebration Hollins spoke to was in full effect Monday as folks participated in the Beloved Community Juneteenth Celebration Walk, where attendees walked from the state Capitol to The Gateway. Once there, participants enjoyed the Black Owned Business Expo, which featured over 45 local businesses and food trucks as vendors for the event.

Additionally, the Black Art Exhibit was on display, featuring talented visual artists, music, entertainment as well as a kids’ corner, storytelling, roller skating, movie screening and more.

For Lavarro Greer, owner of Heaven’s Best Flavored Butters, Monday’s event marked the first time he’d celebrated Juneteenth since moving to Utah from Chicago and starting his business.

“For the African American businessman as well as the Black African American community as a whole, it means that we get the chance to be recognized as a freedom,” Greer said. “We know that Utah is a state that welcomes all nationalities, so Juneteenth is one of the greatest holidays we could ever have coming to legislation and we’re so excited.”

What can people do to celebrate Juneteenth?

“Come out and patronize us,” Greer said. “Come out, support us, support Black business, we really appreciate it and we love to see all of you.”

Lifelong Utahns like Lacy Nixon said that it feels good for Juneteenth to have statewide recognition and visibility.

People gather at The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Monday to celebrate Juneteenth. (Photo: Jeffrey Dahdah, KSL-TV)

“For me, it is absolutely phenomenal because I have been here my whole life and to have the recognition and Utah being involved, just letting everybody know that we are here, we do care,” Nixon, a West Valley City resident and Smith’s store manager, said. “I’m so excited to be here with my daughter.”

Others said that Monday was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate as a community.

“It feels amazing, like, to be out here in the community and celebrating … one of the biggest things that Cleopatra and I really wanted to center on is being able to bring the community together and celebrate Black joy,” said Princess DesRose, co-organizer of Salt Lake Juneteenth.

“This is a joyous occasion when we’re celebrating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, it’s really a celebration for the whole country,” Cleopatra Balfour, another Salt Lake Juneteenth organizer, said. “The invitation is to educate yourself. Seek out the inclusive history that the United States of America has.”

Balfour said that the celebration will last until 9 p.m. and encouraged folks to come out in support.

This is a collaboration article with KSL.com’s Logan Stefanich.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


Enjoying the outdoors can take special skills, but a new program hopes to educate more Utahns so th...
Karah Brackin

‘Becoming Outdoor Women’ aims to empower Utah women with outdoor skills

Through “Becoming Outdoor Women,” a nonprofit educational program new to the state, the goal is for Utah women to develop confidence in those skills and, in turn, themselves.
5 days ago
The Utah State University campus....
Mike Anderson

Utah State University forms new division, focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion

Utah State University is pushing toward better diversity, equity, and inclusion with an all-new department bearing that name.
1 month ago
Peter Rosen

Utah celebrates Juneteenth as state holiday

As Utah celebrates its newest state holiday, we talked to Juneteenth Festival and Holiday Committee director, Betty Sawyer,
3 months ago
Utah Pride Parade 2022....
Kiersten Nunez, KSL TV

Pride Month kicks off with the Utah Pride Parade

The Utah Pride Parade is back and bigger than ever after the three-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
4 months ago
The Pride Flag at the Pride Festival 2022....
Karah Brackin, KSL TV

Hundreds of people gather for Pride Festival this weekend

After three years, hundreds of people showed up in Washington Square wearing their brightest colors for Pride Fest on Saturday.
4 months ago
Outside Riverton Highschool...
Matt Rascon, KSL TV

Transgender students say school got their names wrong in senior yearbook

School officials apologized for an “honest mistake” after transgender students said their high school got their names wrong in their senior yearbook.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
‘Something that we should all be celebrating’: Juneteenth celebrated as official state holiday