Juneteenth 2021 – How to get involved in the celebration in Des Moines, Iowa
Before 2012, I had no idea what Juneteenth was. I was (and still am) a white woman in Iowa and largely because of that, the term was completely foreign to me. Don’t get me wrong, being white isn’t a good excuse to be ignorant, but it put me in a place where I didn’t see black culture marketed. That changed when I became a new teacher at a predominantly black school in Des Moines and was asked to march in the Juneteenth parade.
After a quick Google search, I learned that Juneteenth was a holiday to “commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.” Sounded good to me, so I proudly walked alongside my black neighbors in the parade. I waved at cute kids sitting with their families and smiled as big as I could the whole time. And while I was happy to be there, I really hadn’t spent the time understanding and lamenting what this holiday truly meant for these people.
If you are today years old before hearing about Juneteenth, it’s time to get caught up. Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 every year because, on June 19, 1865, the news of the Civil War and the freeing of enslaved people finally reached Galveston, Texas. This is significant because these people were the last enslaved people to learn they were free. And if you’re good with historical dates you see that this freedom didn’t come until two and half years after President Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation. More than two years! And while the exact reason for the delay is unknown, the reason for the celebration is clear.
Today, more than 150 years after the first Juneteenth, America is catching on to its importance and will recognize it as a national holiday soon, it was recognized in 47 states (including Iowa) before this year. Here in Des Moines though, city officials made it an official holiday this year, which means city offices and buildings will be closed on Friday, June 18 since June 19 is a Saturday.
Now that you’re caught up on the importance of the holiday, here’s how you can get involved in the celebration.
- Check out Neighbor’s Day at Western Gateway Park on June 19 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. where there will be music food and more. Check out Iowa Juneteenth online for more information.
- Head to the Juneteenth Black Business Expo Tour on June 19 from 12 p.m to 5 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines for a showcase of black businesses throughout the area; and food, music, and speakers.
- Go to Ankeny Juneteenth from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 19 at the town square (1500 S. W. Main St.) Here you’ll get performances by the Isiserettes and other musicians and free food.
- Head to the Des Moines Register online for more information and event listings.
About the Author
Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is a tough question, just ask Stephanie Lovelace, because she still hasn’t decided. First, she got a degree in journalism and was a newspaper reporter and public relations specialist, then went to college again and became an elementary teacher, now she stays home, homeschools three kids, and is a freelance writer. What’s stayed steady: her supportive husband, love of pets (current counts at three dogs and four cats), and being an Iowa girl.
Follow along with her current gig, on Instagram at @stephs_at_home.