Juneteenth Just Became a National Holiday. Here’s How to Celebrate in Arizona.

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By Jessica Swarner

June 17, 2021

Arizona in 2016 became the 45th state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.

Juneteenth, which falls on Saturday, June 19, is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the US. 

While the holiday has been widely known in African American communities, others have come to learn about and understand the importance of Juneteenth in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 and new discussions about systemic racism. 

Juneteenth has come to be viewed as a commemoration of Black people’s continued struggle for racial justice and equal treatment under the law.

Growing Recognition

On June 19, 1865, a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform 250,000 captives that the Civil War was over. They were the last in the US to find out they were freed.

The announcement activated President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—which applied only to rebellious states and had been issued two and a half years earlier. Former Confederate soldiers, plantation owners, and other whites attacked African Americans, who were determined to not only celebrate but pursue their full portion of freedoms anyway.

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill in 2016 and became the 45th state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. This week, Congress approved a resolution to establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday.

How to Celebrate

There are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth in Arizona on Saturday. 

Here are some in-person and virtual opportunities for learning and having fun. 


Avondale “Family Reunion” Juneteenth Celebration

The West Valley NAACP is holding a “Family Reunion” Juneteenth Celebration from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at West Point High School in Avondale. 

The event will feature live music, a spoken word performance, a keynote speaker, and more. 

TucsonTucson Juneteenth Festival

The Tucson Juneteenth Festival will have both virtual and in-person components. 

The first virtual event runs 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the second is 9-10 p.m. The online streams will include “a celebration of Black culture, history, song, dance, and fun,” according to the event flyer.

The in-person festival—which will feature food vendors—will be held 4-8 p.m. at the Dunbar Pavilion.

ScottsdaleJuneteenth Freedom Celebration

The city of Scottsdale and GenerationBLK will hold a Juneteenth festival 2-7 p.m. at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.

The event will feature live music, food from AZ BBQ Shack, snow cones, games, and more. The park has a merry-go-round and train ride; tickets cost $3. 

Phoenix13th Annual Juneteenth Celebration

Bizzle’s on Central will hold an all-ages festival 2 p.m.-8 p.m. Masks are required. 

There will be a fashion show 3 p.m.-4 p.m. and a talent competition with a $300 prize 4 p.m.-6 p.m. The event will also have a DJ, vendors, and a “paint and sip.” 

Chandler — Juneteenth Caravan and Festival

Chandler4Change is hosting a Juneteenth event, starting with a car caravan throughout the downtown area at 4 p.m. 

From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be a festival with food, vendors, and entertainment in Folley Park. 

PhoenixValley of the Sun Celebration

The Valley of the Sun Celebration will be held 5 p.m.-10 p.m. in East Lake Park in Phoenix. 

The event will feature vendors, food, art, music, film screenings, workshops, a children’s zone, and more. 

Educational Events

Mesa — Mesa Historical Museum

Bruce Nelson will hold a free lecture 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m at the Mesa Historical Museum titled “The Matriarchs of Washington Park: The Women Who Persevered Through Segregation and Racism.” 

VirtualIntroduction to Juneteenth

540WMain will hold a virtual “Introduction to Juneteenth” workshop 1 p.m.-3 p.m. According to the Eventbrite page, the event will cover “a historical scope of Juneteenth, its’ [sic] present-day relevance, and importance to United States history.” 

Registration costs $30. There’s also the option to attend for free via scholarship and to purchase registration for someone else in need. 

VirtualUnderstanding Juneteenth: An Online Presentation

Melaneyes Media will hold a free “Understanding Juneteenth” presentation on Zoom from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The discussion will cover the holiday’s history and how it has been celebrated across the country. 

Business Opportunities

Flagstaff — Juneteenth Black Business Expo

The Southside Community Association and Coconino County African Diaspora Advisory will hold a Black-owned and Black-managed business expo from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Murdoch Community Center. Admission is free. 

PhoenixJuneteenth Networking Event in Phoenix

THEWRLDISOURS will hold a networking event 1 p.m.-5 p.m. at Way L.A. Studios in Phoenix. There will be pop-up shops from seven local businesses, two food trucks, and live music. 

Music and Fun 

PrescottJuneteenth Jazz Splash Festival

The Prescott Jazz Society will hold a jazz festival at Courthouse Square starting at 9:30 a.m. and running through the evening. There will also be speakers and food vendors. 

PhoenixJuneteenth Hip Hop Festival

GMB 3RIO, an artist from Las Vegas, will headline a hip-hop festival at the Monarch Theatre in Phoenix. Tickets cost $11 for the whole event, which will run 12 p.m.-8 p.m. 

SurpriseJuneteenth WineFest

The city of Surprise and The LA Experience will hold the Juneteenth WineFest 3 p.m.-8 p.m. at Mark Coronado Park. 

The event will include live music, spoken word, vendors, and a historical re-enactment related to Buffalo Soldiers of the Arizona Territory. 

Tickets are $20-$75. A portion of the event’s proceeds will go toward building a monument honoring Black soldiers in the Arizona Capitol plaza. 

GlendaleWe Da People Comedy Show – A Juneteenth Celebration

The Brighter View Foundation in Glendale will host a “We Da People” comedy show starting at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. 

Tickets are $25 each or two for $40 online. Food and drinks will be available on site. 

Kimberly Lawson contributed to this report.

READ MORE: Phoenix’s Only Black-Owned Bookstore Sees ‘Dramatic Increase in Book Sales’


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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