Our nation is heartbroken by the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd’s death, captured on video, was the catalyst that reignited a movement promoting racial justice and equality for Black Americans. As a Black woman, I’ve observed the movement transcend cultures and ethnicities. I find pride in witnessing many groups, from corporations to civic organizations, join forces and take action aimed at creating change, promoting equity and moving the country forward.
The movement has also sparked renewed interest in the Juneteenth holiday, a special occasion marked by Black communities for more than 155 years. This year, there’s a special significance in recognizing Juneteenth. For many, it’s a way to stand in solidarity with the voices fighting for the liberties that all Americans value.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is a day of reflection and pride that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. It has been observed on June 19, since 1866. On that date one year earlier, enslaved people in Texas learned of the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery, though the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and a half years earlier in 1863. In 1980, Juneteenth officially became a holiday in Texas and has since been recognized by 45 other states.
Many communities across the country have adopted Juneteenth celebrations, including parades, cookouts and festivals. Juneteenth is more than a commemoration of the end of slavery or an appreciation for African American history. Juneteenth celebrates the Black experience. It celebrates the accomplishments of our ancestors like Red Cross blood bank pioneer, Dr. Charles Drew. It celebrates the progression toward equality and healing from decades of a painful history.
As a young girl, I vividly remember Juneteenth celebrations in my hometown of Denver, Colorado. I remember it as a multicultural gathering where diversity was a value that was respected. As a Red Crosser, I take pride in the organization also recognizing diversity as a value that helps drive our mission forward, especially during the uncertain times our nation is facing.