Juneteenth is a celebration on June 19 that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. While President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, ending slavery in the Confederacy, the last remaining enslaved African Americans in Texas did not receive word about liberation until June 19, 1865. Since 1866, June 19 has been celebrated as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Cel-Liberation Day by descendants of slaves. We connected with North Highland’s Black Employee Network (BEN) to discuss the significance of Juneteenth. Participants included:
Deon Holder (Analyst, Atlanta)
Melanie Floyd (Desktop Support Specialist, Atlanta)
Jessica Stroud (Expert Practitioner, Charlotte)
Travis Tucker (Lead Business Analyst, Houston)
What does Juneteenth mean to you?
Deon: Juneteenth is a day to acknowledge and celebrate the freedom of our ancestors in the United States. It’s a day to get together with each other, reflect and enjoy time through gatherings or local events revolving around the meaning.
Melanie: It is opportunity to learn more about Black history and renew my decision to support more Black-owned businesses. I recently began to recognize this day, so I am taking time to learn more about it.
Jessica: Freedom. Independence Day. I remember being a young child and my parents explaining to me that for us the fourth of July wasn’t “Independence” Day because our ancestors were not free on July 4, 1776.
Travis: The beginning the story of Freedom for Black Americans. It also serves a reflection on America today, on how far we have come and how much we still have to overcome.
How are you recognizing Juneteenth this year?
Deon: A friend is hosting a cookout and will source all food, supplies, clothing, etc. from Black-owned businesses. Each person will bring an item that supports a business of their choosing.
Melanie: This year I will attend some virtual workshops and webinars. I will also use my social media platform to share.
Jessica: While the celebrations may be limited due to the pandemic, I’m happy to honor the significance of the Juneteenth anniversary. In addition to the North Highland BEN events and other virtual celebrations, I think the day will be a day of reflection for me.
Travis: While Covid-19 has derailed our travel for our extended family tradition of coming together for food, a few laughs and discussion on family history, we still plan to have Zoom call. It serves as an experience for not only the many aunts, uncles and adult cousins I have, but also serves as a cultural learning experience for my 2-year-old daughter and our younger generation.
What do you want people to know about Juneteenth?
Deon: I want people to know the history behind the date and the reason we celebrate it.
Melanie: I want people to take a few moments to read about Juneteenth as it seems to have gained more popularity in recent years. In light of corporations thinking about their Black employees, it is more broadly recognized. I’d like for people to understand the significance of the day.
Jessica: Juneteenth represents for Black people, what the Fourth of July represents for America. Just like individual families have their own celebrations, it’s another family celebration.
Travis: I want people to know three things. First, that the federal orders and the proclamation that led to the celebration of Juneteenth meant hope for over 250,000 enslaved Black people that soon migrated across North America and the globe. Second, that Juneteenth is celebrated in Mexico and many other countries. Third, that not all slaves were free after June 19, 1865 - border states in the Union still owned slaves.
How can local communities come together to commemorate Juneteenth?
Deon: I would say that everyone should support a black-owned business on this date or find a way to support the community. They should get together and educate themselves on the date and what it means for everyone.
Melanie: The best way is to attend an event where the day is celebrated. If you are uncomfortable or a don’t want to go alone, reach out to a friend and share the experience.
Jessica: If you don’t know much about the holiday and its history, I would suggest researching it. Participate in a virtual celebration. Try a new recipe or game.
Travis: For the most part I think local Black/African American communities have a number of great activities and celebrations for Juneteenth. There are number events to enjoy music, food and forums on American History
Any final thoughts?
Jessica: Make it fun!
Travis: It is intentional in stating American History above. One of things that is overlooked about Juneteenth is that this should not be just a celebration for Black Americans, but for all Americans. While there is work still to be done, events/days like Juneteenth, The Voting Rights Act 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968 serves as a reminder of our country’s greatness and progress.