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Juneteenth holiday celebrations held in Las Vegas, Henderson

Updated June 18, 2022 - 11:01 pm

Las Vegas Valley residents began Juneteenth celebrations Saturday with festivals, music and education on the newest federal holiday.

Juneteenth remembers June 19, 1865, when a Union general told enslaved African Americans in Texas that the war had ended and the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect.

In a proclamation in June 2021, President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth National Independence Day a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America. Before 2021, the last federal holiday to be approved was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Downtown Las Vegas

Las Vegas residents Tyler and Markiesha Jones were “booth hopping” inside the Expo at World Market Center on Saturday evening at the Juneteenth Festival with their 2-year-old daughter, Tayler.

Several vendors were set up inside the expo selling artwork, framed photos, skirts, hats, dresses, shirts and jewelry.

“It’s interesting that you can see a culture of people show their different talents and skills and creativeness,” Markiesha Jones said.

The event was put on by the Rainbow Dreams Educational Foundation, a nonprofit that provides scholarships for underserved youth in Southern Nevada. This year was the 21st festival put on by the foundation but the first held at the World Market Center, according to foundation CEO Diane Pollard.

She said about 4,000 people RSVP’d online for Saturday’s event and she was expecting at least 3,200 people to attend.

Holding the festival at a larger venue allowed for more people and vendors to take part.

“It exposes it to everyone that Juneteenth is a celebration,” Pollard said. “It’s a celebration of freedom.”

Pollard said the goal of having minority vendors at the event was “recirculating money in the community.”

Among the vendors were Ken and Eddee Gerideau, who were selling essential oils, natural oils, gemstones and jewelry. Ken Gerideau said they’ve been vendors at Las Vegas Juneteenth festivals for seven years.

“To me, it’s a day of pride. It’s a day to get together,” Ken Gerideau said. “… When I say unity, I mean all cultures, all races, religions. That’s the way my family is. Everybody’s a neighbor.”

The festival was attended by politicians including Gov. Steve Sisolak; U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen; U.S. Reps. Dina Titus and Susie Lee; Las Vegas Councilman Cedric Crear; North Las Vegas Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown; and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

Outside the expo, food vendors served barbecue ribs, shaved ice and buffalo chicken sandwiches.

Vincent Brown and his family started B’s Fresh Mississippi Cuisine nine months ago and had a pop-up tent at the festival. Brown said that his family is originally from Mississippi and that the food served on Saturday was flown in from back home.

On the menu was french fries, okra, chicken wings, Mississippi red sausage, smoked sausage and Mississippi catfish.

The event started at 5 p.m. By about 6, Brown said, they were almost sold out.

Henderson

Brenda Long and her friend Lauren Foster were among the first people inside Whitney Ranch Recreation Center’s Juneteenth Festival on Saturday morning. They both moved to Henderson five years ago and enjoyed the chance to discover a community center they had not been to in their neighborhood.

“When you recognize people, it makes them feel good,” Long, of Henderson, said Saturday. “I’m hoping this will educate some people.”

Long said she hopes to see the valley’s Juneteenth festivities grow over the years. The Juneteenth Festival is expected to move to the Water Street Plaza from 2-6 p.m. Sunday.

Rahwa Ghebrecistos took Saturday’s festival as the first chance to launch her brand, Nyati, which sells T-shirts and framed portraits of Black unicorns with different hairstyles.

Ghebrecistos said her 7-year-old daughter, Eliana Haddish, wanted to decorate her room with unicorns last year, but noticed that all the unicorns in the stores were white and none had Eliana’s curly hair.

Nyati features three types of unicorns in various shades of black and brown, one with Bantu knots, one with curls and one with an Afro.

“We were stuck in the house and couldn’t do anything else, so we made our own unicorns,” Ghebrecistos said. “Unicorns could be anything you imagine. They should be unique.”

Ghebrecistos, a mother of three, said she was hoping Haddish would learn how to grow a business by working with her mother Saturday. The girl handled money and talked to customers about Nyati.

“The unicorns were all white in the store, so now we have something that’s brown, the African unicorns,” Haddish said.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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