WSU Helps Community Celebrate Juneteenth Festival

OGDEN, Utah — Weber State University will take part in hosting and celebrating the 29th annual Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival, which honors the end of slavery in the U.S. Events will take place across the Wasatch Front, June 15-16 and 19-20.

“Juneteenth is the oldest celebration marking the end of slavery in the U.S.,” said Betty Sawyer, WSU community engagement coordinator. “It brings families and communities together from all walks of life to celebrate the richness of African and African American arts and culture. Participants can honor our history and heritage, embrace our future and promote racial healing and reconciliation.”

Juneteenth, which was first observed in Texas, became an official statewide holiday observed in Utah in 2016. Since then, the Juneteenth festival has added additional locations and includes more days of events.

This year’s festival theme is “The Year of Jubilee,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Civil Rights Movement and the impact it had on Utah’s modern social-justice landscape. The theme reflects a goal to reclaim, restore and rebuild.   

June 15, Town Hall Meeting
The announcement of the newly established Utah Black Roundtable, (UBR) will be held June 15, 6 p.m. at WSU Davis Building 3 Ballroom (2750 N. University Park Blvd., Layton).

UBR is a collaborative think tank that will offer a collective voice in support of African American communities in Utah. Issues of special concern to the group include education; juvenile and criminal justice; health and environment; and political action.

“The collaborative is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the unrepresented and underrepresented in Utah,” said Nicola Corbin, WSU communication assistant professor and UBR member. “The idea is if we improve the conditions of those on the outskirts, we can lift all groups together. By dealing with these issues, we are working for a better Utah for everyone.”

Following the formal announcement of UBR, there will be a short reception and program to discuss the state of Black Utah. The evening’s events will also honor the 2018 Mr. and Ms. Juneteenth: Micah Petty and Desange Kuenihira. Petty is a senior and honor student at Layton Christian Academy, and Kuenihira is a senior and honor student at Itineris Early College High School.

The evening’s entertainment includes African drumming and spoken word performance art.

June 16, Festival and Celebration
The festival’s main celebration will include music, storytelling, food, games and workshops, June 16 from noon to 9 p.m. at the Ogden Union Station (2501 Wall Ave., Ogden).

Live entertainers will perform gospel, jazz, choir and R&B music. Scheduled artists include Zenobia Smith, Jonathan Strother, Remnant, Griffin COGIC, Shaun Anthony, Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir, George Brown Jazz Quintet, Certified R&B, Dr. Wood and national recording artist Eric Bellinger. Other presentations will include a genealogy workshop, dances, spoken word poetry, drum shows and storytelling workshops.

June 19 (Juneteenth), Health Screening and Film Discussion
The Calvary Baptist Church (1090 S. State St., Salt Lake City) will provide health screenings and information about community resources, June 19 from 4-6 p.m.

After the health screenings, participants may stay for a cultural celebration with Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir, the Calvary Baptist Church Youth Choir and Praise Dancers. This event is held in partnership with the SLC Anti-Discrimination Task Force.

In the evening, a film screening and discussion of “Josiah: The Story That Sparked the Civil War” will be held at the Davis County Library Central Branch (155 N. Wasatch Dr., Layton) from 7-9 p.m. The movie documents the life of Josiah Henson, the enslaved man who inspired the main character in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

June 20, Film and Discussion
A second film, “Tell Them We Are Rising,” will be shown and discussed at Peery’s Egyptian Theater (2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden). The movie tells the story of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the powerful role they play in educating some of the nation’s top black intellectuals and leaders. The discussion will include professionals who attended or graduated from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  

This film screening and discussion is brought to Ogden through a partnership with the Utah Film Center.  

All Juneteenth events are free and open to the community. No tickets or prior reservations are required. For more information, visit

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Betty Sawyer, community engagement coordinator
801-644-1402 •


Rachel Badali, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7295 •