Jun 16, 2022 - Things to Do

Here's how to celebrate Juneteenth in Utah

Photo illustration of people celebrating Juneteenth
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Craig F. Walker & John Leyba/The Denver Post, Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Juneteenth is approaching and celebrations are popping up from Logan to Cedar City, in addition to Ogden's renowned festival.

Why it matters: The explosion of local celebrations in Utah signals that the holiday is now more universal than it used to be.

  • Laquan Austion, founder of The Juneteenth Foundation 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 told 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."

Context: For decades, Ogden — an important Black cultural center in Utah — has been the undisputed center of Juneteenth.

  • The festival moved from Salt Lake to Ogden in the 1980s due to a scheduling error, and it's been there ever since, organizer Betty Sawyer told Axios.
  • The Ogden celebration is still the state's largest, with a big slate of performers, celebrity appearances and a popular braid and barber battle.

Salt Lake's Juneteenth celebrations have taken off in recent years, and now many communities have their own festivals along the Wasatch Front and in southern Utah.

What they're saying: "It's beautiful," Rae Duckworth, head of Black Lives Matter Utah told Axios. "There's no excuse not to participate in something related to Juneteenth this year."

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."

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