SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — People attending this weekend’s Juneteenth event in Sioux Falls have extra reason to celebrate now that it’s officially recognized as a federal holiday.
Organizers of Saturday’s gathering at Terrace Park West say President Biden’s signing the holiday into law marks another milestone in the long struggle for equality. They’re hoping more people in the community will gain a better understanding of the historical significance behind our newest holiday.
Organizers of the Sioux Falls Juneteenth celebration envision a day when the event will be equal to the Fourth of July.
“It’s bigger and better than ever and our goal is to really compete with some of the larger festivals and celebrations across the state,” Julian Beaudion of Establishing Sustainable Connections said.
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States of America. It’s a chapter of history that many people are only now fully grasping.
“I think here in the state of South Dakota, or in the city of Sioux Falls, it’s slowly getting there. A lot of people have asked questions, or trying to get more education about it, and that’s what we do,” Mark Blackburn of Establishing Sustainable Connections said.
And that awareness in South Dakota is expected to increase now that Juneteenth is an official federal holiday.
“It is going to be phenomenal because due to now the national holiday, it has a bigger significance for everyone and now South Dakota does not have to wait for the bill to be signed, President Biden did it and we’re just overjoyed about that,” Harriet Yocum of Establishing Sustainable Connections said.
The federal recognition is seen as another step forward in breaking down racial barriers, one that will be celebrated locally on Juneteenth.
“I think the small, short increments that we’ve been experiencing are great, we just got to keep doing more, keep educating and keep loving one another, that’s the name of the game,” Blackburn said.
The Juneteenth Celebration at Terrace Park West will also include free COVID-19 vaccinations. Organizers point out that people of color often don’t have easy access to vaccinations or are reluctant to get one based on misinformation. That’s why Avera’s chief medical officer will also be on hand to answer people’s questions.