Today marks the start of the nine-day celebration known as Juneteenth , honoring the culture, heritage and freedom of African-Americans. Gary Lawson is the founder and chairman of Iowa’s Juneteenth celebration, which peaks next Saturday. He explains the event’s roots. Lawson says it marks the end of slavery 139 years ago. He says there are only two officially recognized “Independence Days” in the United States, the 4th of July and the 19th of June — or Juneteenth. Lawson says there are different events held for Juneteenth in Iowa every year, but the annual focus remains the same. He says the emphasis is on economic development, social development and political development, to share the African-American culture and its investment in society. Lawson says the week of events commemorates African-American freedom by emphasizing education and achievement. He says it’s a time of reflection, rejoicing, assessment, self-improvement and planning for the future.Besides events in Des Moines, local observances of the holiday are also being held in: Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Sioux City and Waterloo. For more information, surf to “www.iowajuneteenth.org”.