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Perspective: Celebrating Black Joy

June 10, 2022 2:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

By Eustacia A. English, NRWA DEI Columnist

Happy Juneteenth! The 19th of June or Juneteenth is a day to commemorate, educate, and connect. Juneteenth commemorates the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in all 50 states after the Civil War ended, abolishing slavery. While the holiday is now a national holiday, it has gained more popularity due to the Black Lives Matter movement. Whether you've always celebrated Juneteenth or have never heard the term, chances are you've heard more about it recently than ever. 

Read on for some interesting facts about Juneteenth: 

1.     Juneteenth is the United States' oldest national commemoration of the abolition of slavery. “On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, VA, Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, TX to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended,” according to The New York Times. “General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.”

2.     The festival's name is a combination of June and the nineteenth century. Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day are all names for the same day.

3.     Although Order No. 3 was issued on June 19, the almost 250,000 individuals enslaved in Texas did not immediately gain freedom. Many plantation owners/enslavers waited until after the harvest to announce the news, and many enslaved people who acted on the information faced severe repercussions.

4.     Texas hosted the first Juneteenth celebration in 1866. Freed Texans began commemorating Juneteenth with parades, cookouts, prayer meetings, musical performances, and historical/cultural readings. Every community today has its own distinct traditions.

5.     A Juneteenth tradition is to eat and drink red foods. Juneteenth festivities commonly include red velvet cake and strawberry soda, as the color represents perseverance. Red dishes are customary at Juneteenth cookouts and barbecues, as red is "a symbol of inventiveness and tenacity in bondage," according to The New York Times. Red honors the blood that African Americans shed.

6.     President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17, 2021, making June 19th a federal holiday. This month, let’s celebrate! Take some time to reflect and learn more about Juneteenth. Many companies now give employees the day off and observe Juneteenth as a business holiday. Juneteenth is celebrated by many families and towns with parades, concerts, cookouts, and other activities. Shop at black-owned businesses, share history, or rest at home.

Juneteenth celebrations are tough for some African Americans to enjoy because Black people are still working for equal rights in labor, health care, housing, education, and other areas. Some believe it is insufficient to increase public awareness of the holiday and provide time off from work until there are actual regulations enacted in this country to defend the underprivileged and uplift the marginalized voices.

While the decision to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday is a step forward, realize that it is only a tiny win in the grand scheme of things, and there is still much more to be done. Take the day off to learn, educate, relax, refuel, reflect, and recommit to creating a sense of belonging, dignity, justice, and joy for all. And as always, wishing you all continued peace, love, happiness, and blessings.  

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Eustacia English writes the Perspectivecolumn, which examines Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in resume writing and career strategy. She is a 20-year HR and talent acquisition veteran and started Resumes on Demand last year. She also writes on DEI for The Black in HR e-zine. She lives with her husband and two children in Cherry Hill, NJ. Find her online at LinkedIn.com/in/ecampbell05

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