Music, singing and clapping rang from Salt Lake Community College’s Alder Amphitheater on Tuesday as Bruins and members of the community gathered outside to celebrate Juneteenth.
Nationally observed each year on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of Black Americans. Near the beginning of the festival, Dr. Clifton Sanders, provost for academic affairs and chief academic officer at the college, stepped up to the podium to speak about the longstanding cultural significance of the holiday, which certain institutions are only just beginning to recognize.
“It is important to remember that Juneteenth is a people’s celebration. The federal proclamation belatedly acknowledges this after more than 150 years,” Sanders said, referencing Juneteenth’s 2021 federal designation. Juneteenth also became a state holiday in Utah last year.
“We the people celebrate Juneteenth as thanksgiving,” Sanders continued. “As hope fulfilled, as struggle overcome, and as the joyful strength for the rest of the journey to a more perfect union, because we are not there yet. Juneteenth is past, present and future for all people.”
The college’s Black Student Union (BSU) and Juneteenth committee – who organized Tuesday’s festival alongside the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs – presented both Sanders and Professor Dr. Deidre Tyler with an appreciation award for their “continuous support for Black students at Salt Lake Community College and the Black community.”
With KUTV 2 news anchor Jamie McGriff acting as emcee, the musical festival ran the entire evening. Entertainment consisted of dancing and music from the Ngoma Y’Africa Cultural Center, a hip-hop display by David Davenchy, and a vocal ensemble from the Salt Lake City Mass Choir.
Diversifying the lineup, Tyler and Glory Johnson-Stanton, manager for multicultural initiatives at SLCC, contributed vocal performances. Sanders also got on stage, playing saxophone during a jazz set by the G Brown Quintet.
Throughout the evening, audience members danced, sang along, and crossed their chests and raised their fists as performers hit their emotional highs. Shari-Fa Harrigan, a student success specialist and member of the BSU, described the night as “uplifting, loving, happy, energetic, powerful and diverse.”
“As Black people, we are still asking for reparations and fighting for justice,” Harrigan said, “but this celebration, along with many others [like] Black History Month, is something that we can be proud of and call our own.”
Harrigan said her hope, and that of everyone who helped put on Tuesday’s festival, is to make next year’s Juneteenth celebration at the college even bigger.
“We cannot do this alone, but with the funding and help, we are able to make a difference within the Black community and continue the celebration,” she said.