Phil Lewis performs at Rexburg’s 2021 Juneteenth celebration. Lewis will return to the Beehive Pavilion to perform again at Monday’s event. | Courtesy Brooks McFadden
REXBURG — For the third year in a row, the Rexburg community will gather to celebrate Juneteenth. The event commemorates June 19, 1865, when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were delivered the news that the Civil War had ended and that they were freed from slavery.
Because June 19 falls on a Sunday this year, the celebration will happen on Monday, June 20, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Porter Park in Rexburg. Games, activities, and food trucks are slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. with a program starting at the Beehive Pavilion at 6:30 p.m.
The event is hosted by the Black Student Union, an organization of Brigham Young University-Idaho students. BSU President Brandon Brown says Monday’s program will have a range of performers, including dancers, singers and poets.
Crowd favorite Phil Lewis will return to the stage with his popular flamethrowing routine. Keshiana, a singer from Pocatello, will perform, as well as rapper Hokage and dance troupe Uproar.
There will also be opportunities to learn about the history of Juneteenth, including a history walk and an informational booth.
Brown says it will be an entertaining, family-friendly event, and he hopes the community will take the opportunity to come out and celebrate the historic day.
Dancers perform at the 2021 celebration of Juneteenth in Rexburg. The Rexburg community will gather Monday at Porter Park to commemorate the historic day. | Courtesy Brooks McFadden.
“The events will mainly focus on the idea of unity and bringing people together,” Brown says. “It just shows that everyone matters and that everyone has a voice here.”
As a black man in majority-white Rexburg, Brown says that Rexburg can feel isolating as a minority. He says that before becoming a student at BYU-Idaho, he and his family visited friends in Rexburg every year, and he learned early on that he was different from the majority.
“The first time I came to Rexburg, I was 11, visiting close family friends,” Brown says. “One of the little kids came up to me and said, ‘What’s wrong with your skin?’ It just shows that it’s not very common to see people of different ethnicities here.”
Brown hopes that coming together as a community and celebrating the end of African American slavery will be unifying to the Rexburg community.
He says he is often asked about the differences between the BSU and Black Lives Matter.
“BLM is a movement mainly focused on inequality or injustice and police brutality,” he says. “BSU is founded mostly in colleges and universities. It’s about having a place for people to gather, especially minority groups. … The main focus is inclusivity at BYU-Idaho, because there are people who come from so many different backgrounds. We’re just here to make sure they have a place. I felt very alone my first year here. I just don’t want anyone to feel alone when they come here or like people don’t understand them.”
For more information on Rexburg’s Juneteenth celebration, visit the event’s Facebook page.
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