Utah’s Juneteenth celebration goes virtual this year

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Everett Spencer plays the drum on stage at opening of the 2019 Juneteenth festival in Ogden. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, almost all of the events for the 2020 Juneteenth festival will be online.

A year ago, thousands of people turned out to Juneteenth events in Salt Lake City and Ogden. This year, organizers are hoping people will join the celebrations online.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, seminars, discussions, musical performances and even a movie screening will all take place on the internet. The only exceptions are a flag-raising ceremony — complete with social distancing — and a caravan through Ogden in which most participants will be riding in cars.

(You can walk the route if you want, while, again, observing social distancing.)

“We think it’s the safe thing to do,” said Betty Sawyer, director of the Utah Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States in mid-1865 — almost 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to free the slaves there, the last in the nation.

“June 19th” contracted to “Juneteenth,” which was first celebrated in Texas in 1866. And in 2016, the Utah Legislature declared the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth Freedom Day — and the more recent additions of Montana (2017) and New Hampshire (2019) have brought the number of states that observe the event to 47. (The only states that don’t have official Juneteenth observances are Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota.)

Utah’s Juneteenth observances began Friday with a flag-raising ceremony in Salt Lake City and a webinar focused on black business development. Upcoming events are below. (For more information, go to weber.edu/juneteenth.)

Our Town, Our Story: Genealogy & Storytelling (Monday, 7 p.m. — Zoom meeting ID 916 470 8362) • This virtual interactive webinar will feature members of the Utah Afro-American Historical & Genealogy Society and Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership, who will provide information about how to document and share family histories and stories.

“BOSS: The Black Experience in Business” (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. — livestreamed by the Utah Film Center at utahfilmcenter.org) • This 2019 documentary by Emmy- and Peabody-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders,” “The Murder of Emmett Till”) recounts the untold story of African American entrepreneurship in the face of overwhelming odds. The 113-minute long documentary will be preceded by a 6:30-7:30 p.m. discussion featuring local business owners and members of the Utah Black Chamber.

Juneteenth Day Flag Raising (Friday, 11:30 a.m.) • At the Salt Lake County Government Center, 2001 S. State St. in Salt Lake City.

The State of Black Utah Town Hall (Friday, June 19, 6:30-8 p.m. on Zoom and Facebook) • This event will address “Mind, Body & Spirit: Black Mental Health In the Midst of Crisis.” Youth, young adults and emerging leaders will share how they are coping with racism and injustices and what they want for their future. Among the participants will be Jazzalyn Livingston, the NAACP’s national program manager for its youth and college division.

Juneteenth Commemorative Caravan (Saturday, 11 a.m.) • All are invited to join the caravan through Ogden to share messages of freedom, hope, healing and unity. Participants are asked to line up their cars, trucks and motorcycles at the Marshall White Community Center, 222 28th St. in Ogden. The caravan will travel to Wall Avenue past Union Station; then travel down 25th Street and Washington Boulevard back to the Marshall White Community Center. Participants are also invited to walk the route, if they wish.

Juneteenth Festival and Holiday (Saturday, 2-6 p.m.) • Hip hop, R&B, spoken word, dance, drumming, jazz and gospel performances will be streamed live on Facebook, Instagram and Zoom. Streaming links will be announced at weber.edu/juneteenth before June 20.

Juneteenth Gospel Sunday & Father’s Day Tribute (Sunday, June 21, 2-6 p.m.) • This event will feature local choirs and minister J. David Bratton, who wrote the song “Every Praise Is to Our God.” Streaming links will be announced at weber.edu/juneteenth before June 20.