On June 19th we recognize Juneteenth. Known also as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day or Liberation Day, Juneteenth marks the day when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery reached the frontier of the western slave states. At that time, even though freedom had been on paper for almost two and a half years, the reality of that fact would not be revealed in the West until the Union Army proclaimed that the Civil War was over and thus a new phase of life had begun for African-Americans living in the United States.
In a way, the celebration of Juneteenth in 2021 has mirrored that long wait for the news of freedom. While Juneteenth has been a part of a rich cultural celebration of food, crafts and ceremony that have been maintained by African Americans in those old frontier states, for many Americans 2020 was the first that some had even heard of the recognition. A change in the way we consumed stories and media brought about by the pandemic as well as a focus on racial justice in 2020 brought the news of Juneteenth to a mainstream America that previously had not heard about it. Like those communities 155 years ago we are also compelled to consider, “What does it mean to create an inclusive society in which all of its members have access to freedom? There are still many communities that feel as if they are still in their 2-year waiting period for justice. What will this new world look like, and what is our responsibility to those who because of race, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual identity or orientation, or nationality that have not been able to equitably participate in our society? Juneteenth encourages us to think about the steps can we take to bring the good news to these communities and change the experience from a vigil for justice to a celebration of freedom.
You can learn more about Juneteenth at https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/ or learn about celebrations around the world at https://www.juneteenth.com/welcome.htm.