Jun 17, 2022 - Things to Do

Juneteenth in Des Moines: How and where to celebrate

Illustration of a Black fist wearing a kente cloth bandana.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the U.S. and there are lots of ways to acknowledge it in Des Moines.

Why it matters: June 19, 1865 was the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received the news that Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

Flashback: President Joe Biden signed legislation into law last June making it a federal holiday.

What they're saying: Laquan Austion, founder of The Juneteenth Foundation based in Washington D.C., says people of all races should view June 19 as an American holiday — not one just for Black people.

  • "Think about July 4th," Austion tells Axios. "We celebrate that day for American independence. Juneteenth represents our independence from ourselves. Now we all have the ability to pursue the Founding Fathers' vision."
  • The group hosts a national celebration for the holiday and was founded in 2020 to build awareness around Juneteenth and promote celebration of it as an American holiday.

How to celebrate: The new federal holiday should be viewed as more than another day off from work, Austion says. Here are some ways he says people can recognize Juneteenth:

  • Learn the history around the holiday. This is a moment to be introspective and ask "Why were people still enslaved in 1865? Why didn't they get the information in Galveston until two years later?" he says.
  • Scholarships: He encourages people to give to historically Black colleges and universities.
  • DEI: Push your company on diversity, equity and inclusion policies. "DEI is really sexy right now," he says. "We want to make sure that remains important. What are our companies' plans?"
  • Celebrate: Austion said it's important to recognize that for some people, this is a "moment of solace and mourning." But still, people should get out in their communities, go to events and use this as an "opportunity to learn and hear."

On being an ally: "Definitely go out, be an ally, be an asset," Austion says. "But don’t be tone deaf and try to hijack it as your own. Don't try to commercialize it. Go out there and enjoy the festivities and learn and celebrate this as Americans."

Local events to check out:

🎤 Friday: Laugh along with up-and-coming African-American comedians from the Midwest at Teehee's Comedy Club. Shows start at 7:30 pm and 9:30pm.

🎵 Saturday: xBk is holding a free, all-day Juneteenth celebration that includes live music, a panel discussion and the documentary premiere of "Juneteenth: The Movement."

🤠 Sunday: Buffalo Women: A Black Cowgirl Musical Dramedy is starting its run at the Des Moines Playhouse.

🫖 Monday: Stop for Juneteenth Tea at Corinthian Baptist Church in Des Moines at noon.

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