Rexburg will host a public event commemorating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery on Friday, June 19. Known as “Juneteenth,” Rexburg’s own celebration of this tradition will take place at Porter Park from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Historically, June 19, 1865 is considered the day when the Union Army established authority over Texas and officially declared the end of slavery. Despite the many days recognized as significant in the process of ending slavery, Juneteenth is celebrated as the culmination of this long overdue freedom. It is an official holiday in Texas after they passed a bill in 1979 recognizing it as such, however it is not recognized as a federal holiday. Movements such as juneteenth.com hope to change that by increasing awareness and celebration of African American history and culture.
One of the BYU-Idaho student organizers for the event, Shonaka Phebe, a senior studying sociology, expressed why Juneteenth was special to her and to the community.
“Juneteenth is important to me because it’s the day everyone was free. Even after the first Independence Day, a whole race was still in chains,” Phebe said. “There is still so much injustice towards us, black people, but I think it’s important to celebrate and remember this day as it was a big step in change in U.S. history. Also, Idaho was the fifth state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday in 2001. So I think this will be a great event to unite Rexburg and educate because a lot of people are unaware this is even a holiday.”
According to the event’s Facebook page, attendees are asked to bring their own picnic to Porter Park, where there will be food trucks, music, art projects for kids and a program of African American culture. Volunteers are still needed for the program. The event page also specifies that social distancing will be practiced and that attending or participating in the event is not an endorsement of any issue or group.