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Juneteenth celebrations in and around Olathe

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Johnson County is celebrating its first Juneteenth since declaring it a recognized and fixed holiday in downtown Olathe. 

Over the weekend and into next week, some local governments and community groups will mark Juneteenth with gatherings and events. 

WHAT’S JUNETEENTH? 

Juneteenth celebrates the day the last of the American slaves were freed in Texas roughly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It is sometimes also called Freedom Day and Black American Independence Day. 

Juneteenth is a U.S. federal holiday, and for the first time this year, it is recognized as a holiday in Johnson County and Olathe. That means many departments will be closed and public staff will get off work for observance of Juneteenth, this year on Monday, June 20. 

Here’s a look at what’s happening in and around Olathe:

SATURDAY: JUNE 18

The day before the holiday, the Advocacy and Awareness Group of Johnson County will hold its third annual peace march and rally in old Overland Park. The march starts at City Hall at 10 a.m. and ends at Thompson Park near the Overland Park Farmers Market area. The rally starts at 11 a.m.

The march formally began in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, founded and organized by Johnson County native Linnaia McKenzie. Past marches from the organization were attended by local NAACP chapter leadership, local and federal elected officials and hundreds others.  

SUNDAY: JUNE 19

Johnson County’s government will host its inaugural Juneteenth celebration in the downtown Olathe county square near Santa Fe Street and Park Street Sunday afternoon. The event’s theme is Learn the Past, Change the Future. It will kick off around noon. 

Speakers include Virginia Sewing, whose husband Donald helped to integrate northeastern Johnson County communities, and Rev. Bobby Love from the Second Baptist Church in Olathe. There will also be a stepping movement performance, music and a Juneteenth flag presentation. 

MONDAY: JUNE 20

Throughout the day on Monday, the Olathe Public Library will hold a series of Juneteenth celebrations and recognitions around its Indian Creek branch. The first even kicks off at 9 a.m. and the last ends around 4 p.m. 

The day begins with the recognition of Opal's Walk, a 2.5 mile trek from the library to MidAmerica Nazarene via the Indian Creek Trail to honor the work of Opal Lee to get Juneteenth recognized as a formal holiday. Each mile represents a year that passed between the signing of the proclamation freeing meant to free those enslaved in America and the day the final slaves were freed in Texas. There will also be historical figure reenactments honoring an early Black Olathe resident, food trucks and literary discussions. More information is available here. 

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