A chorus of voices rang in the ears of those gathered around the Idaho Falls Riverwalk Stage. Piano keys were manipulated to accompany the rhythms of blues and Motown. Wooden sticks beat against skin stretched thinly across Japanese drums. Feathers and beads swung wildly through the air.

On Saturday, June 15, The Idaho Falls African American Alliance (IFAAA) hosted the first annual Juneteenth Community Heritage Music Festival.

Mosy emceeing the Juneteenth Heritage Community Festival.

Mosy emceeing the Juneteenth Heritage Community Festival. Photo credit: Emily Ormston

The day included performances from Bright Star Productions, Lenet Peevey-Neifert, The Salt Lake City & Ogden Taiko Drummers, Old Time Fiddlers, Shoban dancers and drummers and Mountain Streams bluegrass band.

“This heritage festival we have today, we want to include everyone, so that everyone can be a part of it, so that we can also move on to celebrating other cultures and other communities,” said Kristine Clark, a gold sponsor of the event and member of the planning committee.

Kristine Clark and her husband, Cliff Clark, moved to Idaho Falls near the end of January. Kristine Clark is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and Cliff Clark is from Jamaica. The Clarks moved to Idaho from Atlanta for business, IFAAA being the first committee they joined after their arrival.

A boy from the Shoban tribe, smiling at the crowd.

A boy from the Shoban tribe, smiling at the crowd. Photo credit: Emily Ormston

“We decided to do something this Saturday to try and make the community aware,” Kristine Clark said.

Juneteenth’s history

Clark explained that Juneteenth was the day that African Americans were freed from slavery and became more independent.

In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, stating that slaves were now free. However, the proclamation was not the end of slavery, and many continued to fight for their freedom.

The Salt Lake City & Ogden Taiko Drummers.

The Salt Lake City & Ogden Taiko Drummers. Photo credit: Emily Ormston

According to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Union troops delivered news of freedom to over 250,000 African Americans in Galveston Bay, Texas, two years after Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation.

This day became known as Juneteenth. It has been a celebration of freedom for the African American community and became a federal holiday in 2021.

“Juneteenth is not a new thing. Juneteenth is something that has been around for a long time now,” said Mosy, the music coordinator and another member of the IFAAA planning committee.

Members of the Old Time Fiddlers play.

Members of the Old Time Fiddlers play. Photo credit: Emily Ormston

Mosy mentioned that the community faced opposition in preparation for the heritage festival.

“What we want to do is fight against that with love,” Mosy said as he encouraged participants to post positive messages about the event. “So that people see it’s just people getting together, loving each other and learning about our issue.”

A girl from the Shoban tribe dances.

A girl from the Shoban tribe dances. Photo credit: Emily Ormston

Kristine Clark shared that June 19 is a proud day. She commented that IFAAA didn’t want to just focus on the African American community. Instead, they wanted to include everyone who has any experience, journey or history in the multicultural setting of America.

“Next year is going to be even bigger and better,” Mosy said from the stage. “I can’t wait to do it next June. That’s what I’m ready for. I’m already ready for next June.”