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'It's critical to tell the story': How Utahns are celebrating Juneteenth

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jun 19, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — Messages of hope and freedom were the themes Wednesday morning as community members gathered on the steps of the Utah State Capitol to celebrate Juneteenth, a federally recognized holiday since 2021.

“It's a celebration for all Americans to recognize the progress that U.S. has made,” said Cleopatra Louise Balfour, the celebration’s organizer. “But also reflect on what can we do next? And what next steps do we have to do in order to continue and to have that more perfect union?”

According to the National History of African American History and Culture, Juneteenth marks the "country’s second independence day," when the Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans — two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The event included speeches from State Senator Luz Escamilla and Pastor Oscar Terrance Moses of Calvary Baptist Church. There was also poetry and a prayer. After the gathering on the Capitol steps, more than 50 community members marched to the Gateway. The celebration continued with an exposition of Black-owned businesses and an art exhibition of local black artists.

For Ambir Moore, who owns a mobile book store called The Book Lovers Era, the day of celebration is an opportunity to think of those who paved the way.

“As a business owner, I think this is just a reminder of what the people did before me because we couldn't own bookstores before,” Moore said. “ And that now that I can own one and start a first one somewhere, it's amazing. So it's a reminder for me to thank my ancestors for me and give them the praise for doing everything they did.”