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Meet the 2024 Juneteenth Sioux Falls Grand Marshal

todayJune 10, 2024 3

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The federal holiday of Juneteenth is coming up in just a little over a week on June 19, but Sioux Falls will be holding their celebrations this coming Saturday.

Juneteenth is celebrated annually to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. 

“Juneteenth, to me, is the true breaking of the chains of slavery,” Chet Jones, the 2024 Juneteenth Sioux Falls Grand Marshal, said. “That finally people that looked like me were finally set free. I think it’s a time to celebrate,”

Celebrations in Sioux Falls include a festival and Freedom Walk. Chet Jones is this year’s Grand Marshal for the event. 

“I think it’s quite an honor to be recognized by my community and people who nominated me and voted for me, of which I didn’t know I was being nominated or voted for, but I think it’s an honor,” Jones said.

“You know, he’s an amazing individual,” Julian Beaudion, Juneteenth Sioux Falls President, said. “One of the things that we say often is we stand on the shoulders of giants. And Chet is absolutely one of those giants that has paved the way for us.”

From California to South Dakota

Jones is a humble man who has led a remarkable life in South Dakota.

It all began when he moved from Stockton, California, to Aberdeen in 1967 to play football and wrestle at Northern State University. 

“Well I was the only person at Northern of African decent,” Jones said. “I thought I’d come here and be here for a semester, maybe a year and then go back home. That first semester was a wicked, tough semester. But it was a semester where I grew.”

That growth came with some tough conversations.

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“In the late ’60s was a time that we were at war and we were all coming in to our own,” Jones said. “Give peace a chance, you know. I’m Black and I’m proud, you know. And the breaking of the chains of that, of being Black and proud and being in a place to find your own. We were all looking at how we could come together and coming together was one day in the dorm when somebody threw the ‘N’ word out. Well, we were going to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting on that.”

He looks back fondly on his time at NSU.

“Great years. Great people,” Jones said. “Great family, you know, that are my best friends today.”

Life after college

Jones met his wife at NSU and together they stayed in South Dakota after graduation.

“I’ve been married 53 years, I have three children of whom I love dearly,” Jones said. “I’ve got nine grandchildren.”

Throughout his life he’s worked at Northwestern Bell Telephone Company and been a referee for high school and college sports.

“I’ve just been so blessed since I moved to South Dakota that my cup just runneth over with the blessings that God has given me and the opportunities He has given me,” Jones said.

He’s also been a member of the NAACP and was elected a District 10 Senator. 

“For me, it was a challenge but it was a challenge that I could handle. Because I like people. I like meeting people, I like listening to people,” Jones said. “My motto was, ‘on my honor, I will do my best to do my duty,’ is what my thing was when I was in the Senate.”

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“He’s laid the foundation for folks like myself and also the NAACP to move forward in efforts of encouraging, whether it be equity, whether it be inclusion. All of those things, Chet has done in the past,” Beaudion said.

Juneteenth 2024

Jones has this message for people as we head towards the Juneteenth holiday.

“We need to get to where we start knowing more about each other and investing in that and staying in that,” Jones said. “Because only by coming together and working together can we make change. And we need change today. More today than ever. We can’t be feuding as neighbors.”

Change can start with education.

“I love Juneteenth. I know what we’re about, I know where we’re going. Come out and be educated,” Jones said. “Invest your time and come out and be educated with someone who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t just walk just like you, who doesn’t just talk just like you. Come out, get involved and you owe it to yourself educate yourself.”

The Juneteenth celebration in Sioux Falls starts with the freedom walk at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The festival will run until 5 p.m. by the Avera Health IT Building on the corner of South 1st Avenue and East 11th Street in downtown Sioux Falls.

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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