Johnson County’s Juneteenth celebrations continued Saturday, with Iowa City and Coralville hosting events to mark the occasion.
Vendors, community members and local officials have all taken to the events to show their support.
The Iowa City celebration featured a speech by Mayor Bruce Teague in which he announced that starting this year, Juneteenth would be an official Iowa City holiday, just one year after it was granted federal holiday status. .
“Juneteenth is a special day that really marks this opportunity for everyone within the nation to be free, and especially for African Americans,” Teague said in an interview with The Daily Iowan.
Teague encourages people to take time over the long weekend to reflect on what it means for all Americans to be free.
Tracy Sargeant, executive director of the Iowa Center for Multicultural Development and organizer of the Iowa City Celebration, said events like this have the ability to bring people together, but the community is still fragmented. .
Sargeant said that while the increased recognition of Juneteenth in recent years has been pleasing, he is not completely convinced that everyone who participates in the marching band does so for the right reasons, and that some are more concerned with the optics. only by change.
He said while the holiday was meant to be celebrated by everyone, he feared that when black people weren’t front and center, the message could get diluted and the goal of supporting black people could get lost. For this reason, Sargeant hopes to involve more people of color in planning similar events in the future.
The sergeant said he was pleased with the number of vendors and community partners who attended the event and hopes for even greater attendance next year.
Nikesha Jones-Jenkins, organizer of the Coralville festivities, said she thinks it helps start a dialogue, allowing people from different backgrounds to understand each other better.
Jones-Jenkins, an Arkansas native, said she’s glad Juneteenth, which has always been celebrated mostly in the south, has made its way north in recent years.
“This is the first June 19th celebration in Coralville, so I hope the support going forward will be 110 percent,” Jones-Jenkins said, “Iowa City has been very well supported. I hope so they’ll be bringing the support directly to Coralville and bringing it further into North Liberty next year, so we can do it all the way down the hall.
Both events, especially the one in Iowa City, were filled with vendor booths and different businesses showing their support.
Companies like GreenState Credit Union, the Iowa City Public Library and ImpactLife were all present at the Iowa City event, with the Green State Credit Union providing financial literacy resources.
Ashley Clemens, a GreenState Credit Union employee who was also on the event’s planning committee, said the idea of bringing financial literacy resources to the event came from a desire to share her knowledge. with other members of his community.
“Within the black community, there’s not a lot of talk about financial literacy,” Clemens said. “So I thought because I work in a financial institution, the knowledge I have can be passed on to someone else.”
In addition to community members and local businesses, the Iowa City celebration also featured a set from The Wilted, a local band who have been together for a year now.
Maiya Kauffman, lead singer of The Wilted, said the event is a step in the right direction.
“There’s definitely a lot we can do as a community to continue to grow and achieve more, but this is definitely the right path,” Kauffman said.