As Juneteenth gains more recognition across the U.S., Utah State University is preparing its second year of events marking the holiday.
"We're growing," said Juneteenth Committee Co-Chair Jamal-Jared Alexander, a USU alumnus. "This is the university's second-annual event series, and we have tripled the events thanks to the many different institutional and community stakeholders."
Events will span three days with the theme "Educate, Celebrate and Activate."
The educational component, according to Juneteenth Committee co-chairs Cree Taylor Alexander, will help attendees understand that Juneteenth has more to do with Utah history than many assume.
"There seems to be a disconnect about 'Why Utah?' Why should the state of Utah have Juneteenth as a state holiday?" said Taylor, a lecturer in USU's Department of English. "The hope is that through education, people will learn, well, you had enslaved folks … from the very beginning when this place was colonized. … Black people have been here for a long time. And here's our history also. And that history is Utah history."
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a law to make Juneteenth National Freedom Day a state holiday in March 2022. Subsequently, USU President Noelle E. Cockett announced Wednesday that Juneteenth would be observed as an additional, official campus holiday. June 20, 2022, will be a campus closure day, classes will be canceled, and the day will be a paid holiday for benefited employees.
Another goal of this year's celebrations is to strengthen ties between the university and its Black students and alumni, Taylor said.
Taylor reached out to about 40 alumni regarding the event and noticed a trend.
"One common theme that I found among African American alumni is that they don't feel as connected to Utah State as their White counterparts do," Taylor said. She hopes to change that through university events such as Juneteenth.
Friday's events include:
- The Utah Black History Museum Bus, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. outside the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art.
- An exhibit within NEHMA from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- A silent auction from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall foyer on USU’s Logan campus. Details for the auction will be announced on juneteenth.usu.edu.
A panel series from noon to 7 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall.
There will be three panels, each an hour long with a moderated question-and-answer period afterward. Panels include:
Noon: Black students and alumni.
Panelists will bring a variety of viewpoints, with a later panel focusing specifically on student-athletes.
While Athletics brings in a lot of students from diverse backgrounds, there are many African American students on the Logan campus who do not come as student-athletes. This panel will provide insight into what brought these students to USU, their experiences on campus (distinct from the student-athlete experience), and ways they think USU's campus and community can better support them.
2 p.m.: Student-athletes and alumni.
Taylor, who earned academic all-WAC honors while competing in USU Track & Field in the 2010s, will be moderating the panel. Panelists will include representatives from Track & Field, Men’s Basketball and Football, and Women’s Basketball
5:30 p.m.: Interfaith panel.
The final panel will explore the question of how people of varying religious backgrounds and denominations can approach activism. The panel includes African American leaders from a variety of local churches, and the discussion will be moderated by Jacqueline Thompson, who last year returned to the Davis County School District as assistant superintendent to incorporate her expertise on diversity and equity.
Taylor said she's encountered people, often in Christian communities, who recognize the harms of racism, but "activism is a word they don't quite understand how to apply to their own lives."
- An alumni mixer from 3-5 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass Outer Courtyard.
Saturday's events provide an opportunity for celebration and are especially catered to families, teenagers, and young children. They include:
- A Juneteenth 5K, organized with the aid of Utah State Athletics, will start at 8:30 a.m. on the Reeder Cross-Country Course, 1165 E. 1400 North in Logan. Registration is available at juneteenth.usu.edu.
- A barbecue from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Bridger Park, 1179 N. 400 West in Logan. Attractions for the entire family include a visit from Big Blue, games and sports with USU student-athletes, balloon animals, bounce houses and Aggie Ice cream. Registration for this event is also available at juneteenth.usu.edu..
A screening of the film "His Name Is Green Flake," at 6 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall.
Green Flake and two other enslaved men were with the first Latter-day Saint pioneers to colonize the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
About an hour of the film will be shown, leaving time for a Q&A with director Mauli Junior Bonner and his brother Yahosh Bonner, who stars as Green Flake.
At the event, the Bonners will be accepting donations for a monument to Green Flake and other enslaved pioneers planned for Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.
On Sunday, an interfaith devotional at 6 p.m. in the Taggart Student Center Ballroom will build off Friday's interfaith panel and continue the conversation of how to unify communities.
The interfaith devotional will include performances from the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir, Cree Taylor, and Yarosh Bonner. Speakers include Debra Bonner, Harry Bonner, and Pastor Daryll Jackson of the Trinity AME Church in Salt Lake City.
For more info, visit USU's Juneteenth event web page.
Comments and questions regarding this article may be directed to the contact person listed on this page.