Juneteenth returns to Lapwai

Celebrating Juneteenth means understanding its history and significance

click to enlarge Last year's Juneteenth celebration
Last year's Juneteenth celebration

For Mikailah Thompson, Juneteenth is more than a day to celebrate; it is a day to bring awareness.

Thompson, a Black woman and Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) tribal member, is the director and organizer of Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration at Lapwai. She not only hopes to provide attendees with an enjoyable time but wants to inform and highlight Juneteenth’s importance and history.

“Our primary goal is to bring awareness of the day,” she said. “We take this as the Black community’s Independence Day and day of freedom. We want to show our history. We’re still here and we’re still thriving, and we made it through.”

Historically, Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is commemorated on June 19 and celebrates the abolishment of slavery and the emancipation of slaves in 1865. For Thompson, it is important to celebrate Juneteenth and teach people about it, especially in the wake of recent racial justice movements. She said the event is her way of being able to provide structure and understanding to the community.

“This is the first step,” she said. “It takes everyone to make change. With this event, all of our communities are coming together. It’s absolutely nothing to do about me, it’s all about our community.”

Thompson encouraged anyone and everyone to attend. She said that now is one the best times to tell these stories because the world is listening.

“There has been a lot of systematic colonization in the way we celebrate and know about (Juneteenth) and it’s time to start changing that narrative and to bring awareness to these monumental moments that have occurred in history,” she said. “Black people lent a huge hand in building this country, so being able to showcase this and bring awareness in our surrounding areas is a huge deal because a lot of people don’t understand what the holiday is, at all.”

“This is the first step,” she said. “It takes everyone to make change. With this event, all of our communities are coming together. It’s absolutely nothing to do about me, it’s all about our community.”

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The Saturday event at Lapwai City Park will feature a range of performers and speakers, including Drae Slapz, Gyasi Ross, Tai Simpson, Poodeezy, Bethany Montgomery, Imani Mitchell and more. There will be games, free food, live music and vendors in what Thompson describes as a “fun, all-day barbeque vibe.”


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