‘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

Equality & Diversity

The outside of the Black Cultural Center at Weber State University in Ogden on Tuesday. It and seve...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

Weber State to axe Black, Latino, other cultural centers to comply with new diversity law

Weber State University will eliminate cultural centers for Black, Latino and other students to comply with the new Utah law targeting diversity initiatives.

7 days ago

The two books made by authors who want to highlight the importance of family history. (KSL TV)...

Tamara Vaifanua

Two local authors highlight the importance of family history for AAPI month

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is coming to a close, and two local authors are talking about their new books highlighting the importance of family history.

16 days ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Tamara Vaifanua

Woman creates custom designed signs, drawing inspiration from her heritage

A popular way some families honor their 2024 grad is displaying a huge banner with their photo and name on it. Vania Lautaha has perfected this art in a unique way – drawing inspiration from her Samoan heritage.

1 month ago

FILE - The Rev. Bill Farmer, center, speaks to members of the congregation during service at the Gr...

Peter Smith, Associated Press

United Methodists remove anti-gay language from their official teachings

The United Methodist Church overturned its 40-year ban on gay clergy Wednesday, marking a historic shift in the church’s stance on homosexuality.

1 month ago

Jani Iwamoto talks to KSL TV about the potential changes to Salt Lake City's Japantown. (Greg Ander...

Lindsay Aerts

Japantown advocates push for preservation of downtown street amid NHL stadium plans

A little-known but impactful section of Salt Lake City's downtown is soon to be at the center of a new vision for the city.

3 months ago

FILE - An attendee holds up flags during the New York City Pride Parade, June 24, 2018, in New York...

Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press

A Japanese court says denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

A Japanese high court has ruled that denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and called for urgent government action to address the lack of any law allowing for such unions.

3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

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