By Will Roper
June 14, 2018

Juneteenth is an American celebration that commemorates the announcement of the abolishment of slavery in Texas and emancipation of African-American slavery throughout the Confederate states – an event which took place 153 years ago on June 19, 1865.

Events to remember this occasion have occurred for over a century, with cities and states across the country holding annual celebrations.

The Juneteenth festival in Lincoln will take place on Saturday, June 16, at the Clyde Malone Community Center in Trago Park from 1 to 5 p.m. Organized by community members and volunteers, has been put on in the city for more than three decades, and offers a day of live music, good food, health and human services, and much more.

Ishma Valenti, an independent community activist, said that Juneteenth is a great opportunity to celebrate the true independence day of the country.

“Not everybody was free in 1776, and the Declaration of Independence didn’t free everybody either,” Valenti said. “The history of June 19, 1865, is a monumental thing and something that should really be celebrated as a true independence day in America.”

Some of the featured activities and performances at this year’s celebration include a rap and dance contest, a performance by renowned Lincoln band “The 402,” a classic car show and a three-on-three basketball competition with multiple cash prizes.

“It’s a friendly competitive tournament,” Valenti said. “Just a bunch of positivity.”

Stur 22, a local lounge which serves African and Caribbean cuisine, Pepe’s Bistro, a local restaurant that specializes in vegan/vegetarian burritos and Mary Ellen’s Food For the Soul, a local soul food restaurant, will be the featured food vendors at the event.

Along with food, games and performances, the Trago Park Juneteenth celebration will also be focused heavily on health and human resources. Information booths and free health clinics will be set up to give attendees free health screenings and informative health services. Clinic with a Heart, a local clinic that focuses on the uninsured and underinsured through free forms of healthcare, will be leading the way with these services to celebrate Juneteenth.

Valenti said there will also be many public speakers talking about culture and history, as well as political organizations to encourage people to register and vote. Among these will be the League of Women Voters.

“It’s so important that our community takes their right to vote and uses that right to affect change in their community,” Valenti said.

Ultimately, Valenti said Juneteenth on Saturday is about understanding and celebrating the past, present and future of African American people and culture. Reclaiming the African

American past from the colonial institution of slavery and looking forward to the future is a major theme of the Juneteenth celebrations here in Lincoln, Omaha and across the country.

“We want to bring home the message that African Americans have been great and they started great in Africa,” Valenti said. “We want to speak to the contributions African Americans have made – those great things African Americans have done – so that we can continue to build off of that and reframe our future.”

Will Roper is an editorial intern with KZUM.