DUMAS, Ark. – Arkansans from across the Delta region gathered in Dumas Saturday to celebrate the newest federal holiday.

“Juneteenth” – or June 19th – marks the emancipation of the last slaves in the United States and is used as a day to celebrate black history and culture. The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission hosted a Juneteenth gathering and youth summit at Dumas high school, where speakers, vendors, and performances marked the national holiday.

The event included speeches, live performances, a car show, food trucks, and a vaccine clinic in the school gym. 

Kamicka Thompson and family drove nearly two hours to be in Dumas, traveling from Sherwood to attend the event. “It’s that important,” Thompson said. She shared what Juneteenth means to her, and why she’s thrilled the day is now an official federal holiday. “It just means more recognition,” Thompson explained. 

Thompson and many others couldn’t miss the chance to celebrate black history in Arkansas – and look towards the future as the fight for equality continues on.

One of the celebration’s keynote speakers was Tawanna Gordon, cousin of the late Breonna Taylor. Taylor was shot and killed by Kentucky police during a raid on her apartment in 2020. Gordon spoke on peace and unity and stressed the importance of remembering the past in order to change the future.

“Ask yourself, ‘what am I willing to do to bring my community together?’,” Gordon said. “In order to know where we’re going, we need to know where we come from.”

But the day of remembrance was also filled with joy as vendors and visitors alike celebrated what it means to be black. 

“We are celebrating our culture,” explained Brittany Desmuke, who was there with her brand, KB Christian Apparel. “We’re celebrating our community. This is our independence day, this is our day of freedom!”

President Biden signed a resolution on Thursday officially recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday.