Juneteenth marks an important milestone in the U.S.’ ongoing pursuit of “liberty for all.” June 19, now celebrated as Juneteenth, honors the day in 1865 when the last of the enslaved in Galveston, TX were told they were free. Long acknowledged and celebrated by African Americans, the poignancy of this day has become more widely-acknowledged by all Americans in recent years and the movement to expand this into a national holiday is gaining traction.
It might not feel right to simply “celebrate” Juneteenth without acknowledging the painful past of our collective history. At this time, “liberty for all” remains aspirational. Celebrating the day might feel disingenuous after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others, as well as the latest voter suppression laws…. as it’s abundantly clear that much work needs to be done.
While this day means something different to each of us, Juneteenth provides an important opportunity to look forward, celebrate ongoing progress and refocus efforts. Personally, I will spend the day thinking about what I can do right now, and right here, to renew my commitment to the spirit of the holiday. My celebration will also include dinner from Suya Joint here in Boston as one additional way to support local Black business, and attending “One Night in Boston” in Nubian Square, organized by King Boston. Here’s how a few of my colleagues will observe Juneteenth:
- Nikki Glass, VP, Administration: “I will celebrate the day in Baltimore, MD with my fellow Morgan State University Alumni by breaking ‘red’ bread. We were asked to bring food items that are red to remember the blood shed and sacrifices made by so many families during slavery.”
- Teletha McJunkin, Systems Coordinator: “Our city, Chattanooga TN, recently recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday, and we are going to a Juneteenth celebration featuring local black artists and vendors.”
- Emily Mutanda, Programs Manager: “My husband and I will be taking my niece and nephews to the ‘Evening For the Culture Juneteenth Art Show + Soul Food Dinner’ event in Los Angeles, CA. Looking forward to the fashion show and getting some new art pieces.”
- Lawrence Alexander, Innovation Manager: “This year, in our community in South Dartmouth, MA, my children will be performing in a recital that they’ve produced themselves. My wife and I have taught our children about Juneteenth and they know that July 4, 1776 did not mark independence for Africans in America. We believe that until we wrestle with the realities of Juneteenth and our delayed and denied justice, that no American can truly be free. So, we’ll celebrate with a diverse group of community members, celebrating the day we ALL became free…”
Perhaps each of you can do something mindful and deliberate on this year’s Juneteenth: read, learn, discuss, organize, advocate, participate, gather, connect, celebrate.
I look forward to making the expression “liberty for all” ring truer for all people and celebrating a time when we are all recognized for our full humanity. I am encouraged and humbled by the tireless work, positivity, and tenacity from so many to make this a reality.
-Elika Dadsetan-Foley, Executive Director