By Nineequa Blanding, Former VP, Grantmaking
June 19th is Juneteenth, a holiday that marks a pivotal moment in our American history. This day commemorates the day the Emancipation Proclamation was recognized in Texas, specifically Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865 – more than two years after it had been enacted. This holiday represents the moment when the Emancipation Proclamation reached every city and state in America, including those where people were still enslaved. Recognizing this day drums up a range of emotions for people. It is a time to reflect and a time to celebrate.
For me, celebrating Juneteenth acknowledges and shines a light on the systemic, racial injustice that should never have existed in the first place. It is also marks the celebration of our collective freedom. Juneteenth represents our country’s Independence Day, yet this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans. Celebrating this day, creates space to celebrate the strength, resilience, beauty, and magic of Black people and our contributions to the collective energy that sustains us all as a society. Juneteenth is a day to honor those that have sacrificed and paved the way to support freedom and liberation. It also serves as a day to organize and to commit or recommit to efforts towards radical systemic change, justice and liberation.
As Angela Davis notes – “Freedom is a constant struggle.” Furthermore, racism affects all of us. Given that we are approaching this day in such a pivotal moment in our history, I invite all of you to join me in reflecting and celebrating this Juneteenth.
Take a moment of reflection by asking yourself – why is Juneteenth an American holiday? I encourage you to reflect by yourself first and then share among colleagues, friends, and loved ones.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has provided a great resource for additional information on Juneteenth.
Here are some reflections from our colleagues on this holiday:
Jamiah Tappin, Associate Director, Health Equity
“The history behind Juneteenth should be taught early on in every classroom, as it is a critical part of our American history. I did not learn about this day until I was in college, but it is a personal reminder to continue to learn my history and never forget our ancestors.”
Mayowa Sanusi, Co-chair Equity & Inclusion; Research Associate
“In all honestly, Juneteenth brings me more sadness than joy. For me it depicts the constant struggle for freedom that Black Americans are faced with, and I use the day to reflect on how I can play a part in the movement towards liberation of Black people.”
Steve Ridini, President
“Juneteenth is a day that provides us all with the opportunity to acknowledge the significant sacrifices and contributions that Black people have made in this country. It’s also a time for white people in this country to recognize the injustices we have committed against Black people and the role and actions we need to take to co-create a more just and equitable society.”
We invite you to attend any of the events listed below or to celebrate in a way you would like. Here are some Boston-area events that you might wish to attend.
- One Night in Boston – Nubian Square, 6/18/21, 6:30 PM
- Juneteenth MFA Community Celebration – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 6/19/21, 10 AM – 10 PM
- The Boston Globe’s Juneteenth Film Festival – various locations in Boston, 6/15 – 6/21/21
Click here to find more events near you.
For the first time, HRiA will recognize Juneteenth as a holiday (observed on Friday, June 18, 2021), providing a day of respite, repose, and reflection for staff. Last July, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation making June 19th an official holiday in the state. Today, President Biden signed a bill into law making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Recognizing Juneteenth is just one small step in our journey toward health and racial equity. We hope that you find time this month to explore and learn more about Juneteenth and our true history. We also hope you can celebrate the resilience of our communities, our wonderful diversity, and shared humanity.