During the Thursday edition of Iowa City’s online program Community Connection, Mayor Bruce Teague and Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter discussed Saturday’s Juneteenth Celebration on the Pentacrest, as well as the recent protests in the city and the country.
Although other Juneteenth celebrations have had to be canceled due to COVID-19, the Iowa Freedom Riders, who had led most of the recent protests in the city, and the Black Voices Project, which has worked on racial equity and social justice issues in Iowa City since 2014, are hosting a free, family-friendly celebration featuring food, live music and speakers on Saturday.
“We know people are worried about social distancing, so we are all on top of it,” Porter said. In addition to being the first black person elected to county-wide office in Johnson County, Porter is the president of the Black Voices Project and one of its co-founders.
Porter said face masks will be available for anyone who comes to the Pentacrest without one, as well as hand sanitizer and several handwashing stations.
The Black Voices Project has been working with the Iowa Freedom Riders, whose demands for change formed the basis of the 17-point resolution the Iowa City Council passed on Tuesday night.
“I think it was awesome that people are coming onboard and seeing what’s needed in our community,” Porter said.
Teague agreed, and pointed to the influence of the nationwide protests allied with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think the Black Lives Matter movement has really opened up people within our community’s eyes to say, ‘Hey, we need to take a serious look at what’s happening with people of color, black people within our community. And take action now. Not kick it down the road or have this long-drawn-out plan,’” the mayor said.
“That’s what we saw within our council on Tuesday.”
Porter also discussed how the Black Voices Project has begun to expand beyond Iowa City. Coralville residents are now joining the group to push for change.
“We’re growing, and it’s a wonderful thing to see,” she said. “Because it’s powerful to see that the things that we’ve been shouting for so long are starting to come to fruition.”
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There will be a march starting from the Pentacrest at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Juneteenth celebration on the Pentacrest is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m and last until 8 p.m.