Celebrating Juneteenth

Graphic of Juneteenth

In January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared almost three million enslaved people living in Confederate states free. More than two years later, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform the last enslaved people of their freedom. Juneteenth is the official recognition of that day.

It was not until 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, commemorating the emancipation of the enslaved African Americans, that the freedom of all U.S. citizens would officially be celebrated.

“Celebrating Juneteenth is the opportunity to remember the struggle and sacrifices many have experienced to achieve freedom and equality,” said Justin Mallett, NAU vice president of inclusion, diversity and engagement. “We should all utilize this day to remember and reflect on how a collective voice will reemphasize our commitment to equity and civility.”

“Juneteenth serves as a reminder to everyone that formally enslaved people have a rich history and contribute to the making of our country,” said Deborah Harris, executive director of the Southside Community Association.

Officially made an NAU holiday by President José Luis Cruz Rivera, the NAU and Flagstaff community is encouraged to participate in a variety of events, put on by the Coconino County African Diaspora Advisory Council, Northern Arizona University Diversity Commissions and Southside Community Association, taking place June 16-18.

“These events bring our community together and educate us about other cultures,” Harris said. “While this national holiday is a step in the right direction, it does not mean there is not a lot of work still to be done to make our country inclusive.”

June 16, 5-10 p.m.—2nd Annual Juneteenth Gala

This event, for which ticket sales have already ended, is designed to celebrate and award Flagstaff citizens who have contributed to the community and support the work of the Southside Community Association’s Lived Black Experience Project.

June 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.—Juneteenth Celebration

This event, which is free and open to the community, will include music, vendor booths, educational activities, food and games. Stop by the South Beaver School, 506 S. Beaver St., for a day full of fun for the whole family.

June 18, 5-7 p.m.—Gospel Concert

Held at the Christ’s Church of Flagstaff, 3475 Soliere Ave., this free event will showcase local gospel singers and include members from the Freedom Impact Center in Phoenix.

“I hope you will participate in these events,” said Kimberley Robinson, project coordinator at the Lived Black Experience Project. “But more importantly, commit yourself to having a potentially uncomfortable dialogue regarding the controversial aspects of this country’s past and realize that fearlessly addressing the unpalatable portions of America’s history will only elevate our future.”

NAU Communications