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Juneteenth in Idaho: Honoring and respecting Black spaces

Juneteenth is on Sunday. Many event organizers in Idaho are taking the weekend to honor the Black community.

BOISE, Idaho — Juneteenth originated more than 150 years ago, on June 19, 1865.

“The Union army traveled to Texas to read the proclamation order that the enslaved Africans free,” said Mario Pile, director of the University of Idaho’s Black African American Cultural Center.

Texas was the first to recognize the date of June 19, also known as Juneteenth, as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Texas was the last state in the Confederacy where the proclamation was announced.

"The year later, African Americans had started celebrating as early that as that started celebrating their emancipation and their liberty from slavery,” Pile said.

Juneteenth has always been an important part of American history, but the day did not become a federal holiday until June 2021,

“Gentrification still exists, forms of education, keeping Black folks out of education, health care. I think they are all tied to why Juneteenth has taken so long to be recognized,” Pile said.

Juneteenth is celebrated all over the country with many events, including parades, barbecues, informational, well the list goes on. Unfortunately, many organizers have had to adjust the way they promote events, including some here in Idaho, for safety reasons. One of those adjustments has included not releasing the location of events happening in Idaho until the day of or weekend of the event.

"Ever since the emancipation, you had the rise of the KKK and that just trickled into many different terrorist organizations on this soil, but one thing that has never happened: there has not been a strong, strong, strong push from the top down about this is unacceptable and we won't tolerate people who think this way or act this way,” Pile said.

Pile says it’s important to understand and talk to people in the Black community, including business owners, to learn more about ways to respectfully honor them.

"I think taking a step back would be engaging in businesses before Juneteenth and asking them how we can best support you,” he said.

So instead of non-Black companies throwing the Juneteenth logo on products, Pile says a better way is putting it into the curriculum in every school.

“Whether the school is predominantly white is irrelevant. Every school should be learning about Juneteenth,” Pile said.

Pile says he hopes this weekend is full of knowledge and respect in every part of the Gem State.

"We want to be seen, we want to be loved and what does that look like? Let's ask that question. What is it to love the Black community?" Pile said. "Because we are a diverse group of people and bringing that diversity to the table, Juneteenth is all about that.”

In Boise, the Idaho Black History Museum is hosting a Juneteenth celebration starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. The museum is located in Julia Davis Park.

Federal, state and some local governments are observing the Juneteenth holiday on Monday, June 20. Banks and some government facilities will be closed.

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