Iowa Juneteenth Observance Celebrating History, Healing, and Health This Year

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URBANDALE, Iowa — On June 19, 1865 slaves located in Galveston, Texas were notified two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that they were finally free.  This day commemorates the end of slavery and what we now know as Juneteenth. 

Iowa Juneteenth Observance has been celebrating this holiday for 30 years now and wasn’t going to let the pandemic stop its three-day festival. So they decided to go virtual this year, which event coordinator, MarKaus Ashworth believes gives them more reach.  

“We’re expecting 75,000- 200,000 unique viewers over this next three days. And that’s not a reach that we probably would have gotten if we had 20,000 people at a park,” Ashworth said. 

Ashworth said this three-day celebration is all about history, healing, and health. Thursday they honored Iowa Juneteenth Observance Founders as well as community leaders. 

Friday the Iowa Juneteenth Observance will host a health awareness day, giving Iowans the tools to live a better lifestyle.

“You’ve got to be healthy if you’re going to be out there protesting and trying to really push these things forward,” Smith said. 

The celebration will conclude on Saturday with performances from local artists and a discussion on using the arts for activism. 

Nationwide Insurance has been working with Iowa Juneteenth Observance for over a decade. A business consultant for the company says this has a major impact on its employees 

“It really makes our black associates feel like they are seen like they’re not invisible, they are appreciated,” Bridget Cravens-Neely said. 

After receiving an email from a student, Drake university decided to make Juneteenth an official paid holiday on campus.  

“Frankly my response right off the bat was, of course, we should do this. Really we should have done this years ago,” Martin said. 

Martin expressed the recent racial tension in America surrounding the George Floyd case also prompted the university to take action. 

“This is a renewed call for social justice. This is one thing of many that Drake can do to recognize that call and to respond to it,” Martin said. 

Cravens-Neely said Juneteenth is not about struggle, but triumph. 

“As black people what fuels us is our joy,” Cravens-Neely said. “If we can find the joy in things, then we can push on and we have pushed on through so much.” 


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