52nd annual Tucson Juneteenth Festival returns to Kennedy Park

Published: Jun. 18, 2022 at 10:20 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Saturday was the first day of the 52nd annual Tucson Juneteenth Festival. This is the first time the festival has been back at Kennedy Park in several years, and organizers hope the festival will continue to bring the community together and educate them.

Organizers say this was the biggest local Juneteenth Festival yet.

Juneteenth also holds a lot more significance this year because this is the first festival in Tucson after Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday last year.

“This is not a black holiday. It’s a holiday for everybody. It’s a holiday of freedom. It’s a holiday of people struggling for two years not knowing they were free and now they come out to celebrate,” said Larry Starks, board president of the Tucson Juneteenth Festival.

Juneteenth is the first federal holiday to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After the death of George Floyd, many social movements brought Juneteenth back into the spotlight. It celebrates the end of slavery, marking the day in 1865 when troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, took control of the state, and ensured every slave was free.

“People need to do a better job of educating and that’s what we’re going to do. It’s not just celebrating Juneteenth once a year, it’s about educating kids,” Stark said. “It’s about educating members of the community so that they understand it’s not just one day. Education is the most key thing. It’s about a movement not a moment and that’s what we’re going to do on Juneteenth.”

They’re helping to bring that education to Tucson through the Juneteenth Festival. There were tents full of resources for Tucson’s African American community and beyond, including education, physical health, and mental health. There were also vendors selling art and jewelry along with live musical performances.

Tucson rapper Youngme was there performing. “It’s a celebration of our people and our ancestors and where we come from. And just being able to express ourselves freely and creatively the way we have throughout the years,” he said.

Organizers hope next year’s festival will be even bigger, and they hope that those who came out today were able to learn something and open up the conversation about the meaning of Juneteenth.

″It’s an American holiday for everyone because it’s part of our history,” said Tim Stark, an organizer. “So, it’s great to see people come out, but know for next year – please everybody come out. If it’s your first time kind of wanting to know what it’s about, come ask somebody that way you can pass it on to your kids and grandkids and it can just go on and on.”

There are some more festivities happening Sunday, July 19, including a Father’s Day luncheon and a Gospel Jubilee. That’s happening at Dunbar Pavilion from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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