WSU Helps Community Celebrate Juneteenth Freedom Festival

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University will help sponsor the 28th annual Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival at three locations in Ogden, Layton and West Valley City, June 16-18 and June 21. This year’s festival added two extra days and extended its reach into the south end of Salt Lake Valley.

The additional events were added following the 2016 Utah Legislature’s recognition of Juneteenth Freedom Day as an annual commemoration on the third Saturday in June, making Utah the 45th state to pass legislation for a Juneteenth holiday or holiday observance. Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.

“With the official state holiday approved last year, we thought it was important to branch out and do something in Salt Lake,” said Betty Sawyer, Juneteenth organizer and WSU’s community engagement coordinator. “As a committee our desires are that there be celebrations going on throughout the state, not just Juneteenth weekend, but the entire month of June, and that’s something we will work toward.”

This year’s theme, “The Power of Now. Our Future Begins Today,” will be woven through the activities and presentations.

June 16 Town Hall Discussion

The celebration begins with a town hall discussion “The State of Black Utah,” June 16, 6:30 p.m. at Weber State University Davis Building 3 Auditorium (2750 N. University Park Blvd., Layton).

Participants will share ideas for improving quality of life, community relations and economic development in Utah’s African American community. The town hall meetings generally attract 50-75 participants.

The evening also will include performances by nationally renowned storyteller Baba Jamal Koram and drummer Baba Kenyattaa. Both are members of the National Association of Black Storytellers. They will continue their performances and workshops throughout the weekend.

June 17 & 18 Festival

New this year, Juneteenth will host activities June 17 from noon to 9 p.m. at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center (1355 W. 3100 S., West Valley City).

“Even though the African American population is small in Utah, it is a good chance for us to come together and celebrate our diversity,” Sawyer said. “With all of the small communities inside and outside of the state, our celebration feels a lot like a huge family reunion.”

Saturday activities include storytelling and drumming workshops, a family history and genealogy session, a youth art and activity pavilion, a health and wellness pavilion, food and resource booths, and college and career information. Live entertainers include, Changing Lanes Band, 365 Poetry, gospel recording artists Joshua Rogers and Zenobia Smith, the Burundi Drummers, Shard Marley, the Mr. and Miss Juneteenth winners, high school graduate recognition, and hip-hop artist Yung Joc from the “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” TV series, and a host of local artists.

On June 18, the festival moves to the Ogden Amphitheater (343 E. 25th Street) from noon to 7 p.m.  Sunday events will emphasize jazz and gospel music, art and food with Joshua Rogers, the George Brown Jazz Quintet with Glory Johnson Stanton, Zenobia Smith, Remnant, Juneteenth Mass choir, Debra Bonner and Unity Gospel choir, and a Father’s Day tribute.

June 21 Movie Screening and Discussion

Another addition to Utah’s Juneteenth lineup is a screening of the film “I Am Not Your Negro,” June 21, 6 p.m. at Peery’s Egyptian Theater (2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden).

“We’ve partnered with the Utah Film Center to bring this important film to Ogden,” Sawyer said.

Directed by Raoul Peck, the 2016 documentary is based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript, “Remember This House.”

Weber State University education professor Forrest Crawford and communication assistant professor Nicola Corbin will lead a discussion about the film, along with Rev. William Beard, and Dr. Brenda Burrell.

All Juneteenth events are free to the public and are family friendly, except the newly added Juneteenth “Friend-Raiser After Party,” featuring Yung Joc. Tickets are on sale at SmithTix.

Project Success Coalition sponsors Juneteenth Festival, in partnership with Weber State University, Weber County R.A.M.P., Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office, NUSOUL Nubian Storytellers, and the Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College.

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For additional photos from the 2015 celebration, visit the following links:


Betty Sawyer, WSU transition programs and partnerships coordinator
801-626-7027 •


Charles Bowker, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7295 •