The Omaha Freedom Festival is one of the largest local event celebrating the day American slaves were finally freed.

2021 Event Listing

June 12

  • Annual Juneteenth Nebraska flag-raising ceremony and veterans’ luncheon.
  • 11:30 a.m. Washington Branch Library 2868 Ames Ave. 

June 14

  • Citywide prayer, march and Maafa led by Willie Williams
  • Noon, Douglas County Courthouse, 1701 Farnam St.

June 18- 19

June 18

June 19

  • Juneteenth Prayer and Unity March
  • 5 p.m.  Adams Park, 3230 John Creighton Blvd. 

June 19

  • Omaha Freedom Festival, Noon to midnight, Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, 3448 Evans St. Socially distanced outdoor event will feature activities and refreshments.
  • Concert at 7 p.m. with rap artists Juvenile headlining, along with artists Michel’Le, Enjoli & Timeless, and Keeshea Pratt.
  • Max capacity is 1,500 due to COVID. The Festival will follow safety protocols as recommended by the Douglas County Health Department, the CDC and the City of Omaha.
  • The Omaha Freedom Festival Concert is brought to the community by Quality Clinical Research, The Blues Society of Omaha and Union Pacific.

June 20

About Juneteenth

Known for having one the biggest Juneteenth celebrations in the nation until the pandemic last year, Omaha Nebraska is back on track with several events celebrating the African American holiday.

June 19th, 1865 is considered the true end of slavery, a full two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. History tells us there was resistance in the South and as a result, some slaves in Texas were not told they had been freed. Even those who had heard about the proclamation were forced to remain enslaved. Although General Lee surrendered at Appomattox two months earlier, it took the arrival of Black forces that were able to overcome the resistance and finally free the last of the slaves (approximately 250,000) in the South. Today, descendants of slaves celebrate Juneteenth on June 19th in commemoration of the day those slaves were freed. Omaha celebrates each year with several events lasting upwards of a week.

This year, the big event is the Omaha Freedom Festival on June 19th at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation (3448 Evans St). The socially-distanced outdoor event will last from noon till midnight, an all-day affair featuring activities for kids, health screenings, artists and musicians, food and beverages and much more during the day. A concert is scheduled to commence at 7 p.m. with rap artists Juvenile headlining, along with artists Michel’Le, Enjoli & Timeless, and Keeshea Pratt.

The signature National Juneteenth events for Nebraska include a flag raising, a city-wide prayer, and march, and what’s called a Maafa. The word “Maafa” is Swahili for “great disaster.” Willie Williams, who was instrumental in bringing the celebration to Omaha through the National Juneteenth organization in the mid 2000’s, will lead the annual Maafa. She describes the Maafa as a “reconciliation and healing from a terrible occurrence, [in this case] the “middle passage” where slaves were brought over to America enduring horrific conditions.

The Maafa will take place on June 14th from noon until 1pm at the Courthouse Pavillion, 1701 Farnam St. The Juneteenth National organization, through Ms. Williams, will also lead the Juneteenth Prayer and Unity March on June 19th from 5pm to 7pm starting at the Adams Park Parking Lot. Also, Juneteenth National will host a flag raising and veterans luncheon from noon until 1:30pm at the Washington Branch Library (2868 Ames Ave.) on June 12th.

There are several entities celebrating independently according to Vicky Young, president of the Nebraska chapter of the NAACP, the organization that usually organizes events and normally facilitates the annual parade. This year, due to Covid-19, they chosen not to have the parade, but are working with the organizations behind the Omaha Freedom Festival.

“Everyone is working independently on their event, but the NAACP is ensuring their info is being shared out in the community,” said Ms. Young. The NAACP will participate in another huge event for this year, the ceremony unveiling of a very important marker. The Omaha Community Council For Racial Justice and Reconciliation (OCCRJR) and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), of which the NAACP is a part of, will place a historical marker at the courthouse that will commemorate Will Brown, an Omaha man lynched by an angry mob at the courthouse 100 years ago. The marker ceremony will happen June 18th, a serious note to begin the Juneteenth celebrations.



Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Leave a comment