Rexburg Juneteenth

Community members gather at last year’s Juneteenth celebration at Porter Park.

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For the second straight year, a Juneteenth celebration will be held in Rexburg.

The Black Student Union will be hosting the event, which begins at 4 p.m., June 19, in Porter Park. The union is an unaffiliated Brigham Young University-Idaho student group.

Juneteenth celebrates the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and free any people that were still enslaved after more than two years had passed since the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed.

“A lot of the time, we learn that after the Emancipation Proclamation was released that slaves were freed and that definitely wasn’t the case. They were freed on paper, but it took two years after the Civil War ended to let slaves know in Galveston, Texas that they had their freedom,” said Michaela Mack-White, the union’s social media coordinator. “It’s super important to know, it’s truly a transformative educational experience for everyone to learn.”

Mack-White said the celebration will include live music and dance performances, games, activities, food trucks and spaces for people to have picnics, as well as a presentation on the history of Juneteenth.

Last year, a Juneteenth celebration was held by Black Lives Matter-Rexburg. One of the event organizers from that event, Kristine Anderson, contacted the Black Student Union this year to see if they would be interested in hosting this year’s celebration.

Anderson and two of the organizers from last year offered their support with fundraising, but the event this year is all the union’s vision, Anderson said.

“They have some different ideas this year and I think it’s going to be really fun,” Anderson said. “There’s a little bit more of a fair and festival feeling with the games and activities that are planned.”

Anderson said she hopes the event can be something that unifies the Rexburg community and educates people about important details of the country’s history they may not have learned in school.

“There’s so much that we didn’t learn growing up. I had no idea that Juneteenth was even a holiday until maybe two years ago,” Anderson said.

The state of Idaho officially recognized Juneteenth as a holiday in 2001. It is not a federal holiday but 48 states recognize the holiday, leaving South Dakota and Hawaii as the only states that do not recognize the day as a holiday. The Associated Press reported on April 27 that Hawaii does have a bill that has made its way to the governor’s desk that would officially recognize the holiday.

Mack-White said she’s excited to see the fruits of labor that the Black Student Union has put in to organize the celebration.

“Come ready to learn, come to celebrate, come hungry,” Mack-White said.