Juneteenth celebrates the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves on June 19th 1865. The impact of that date can’t be understated, or fully expressed in one blog post. Instead, we hope to be a small part in a chorus of voices celebrating Juneteenth.
While Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation officially abolished slavery on January 1st, 1863, it took another two and a half years for that news to reach those still enslaved in Galveston, Texas.
That fact underscores the importance of Juneteenth as a day of equal parts celebration, education, and agitation. Reckoning with and healing from the parts of United States history that aren’t featured in many textbooks or taught in many schools requires a constant act of vigilance.
John Lewis eloquently stated this challenge saying, “Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”
To honor Juneteenth, and in effort to do our part, we talked with the Alfred team about what the date means to them, and how to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
Where Does It Hurt?
For some, Juneteenth is a day of remembrance. For others, it could be a day of uncovering, of growing to understand the significance of that date and its impact on the black community.
One Alfred team member remembers listening to activist Ruby Sales’ podcast “Where Does It Hurt?” While the podcast didn’t address Juneteenth specifically, it still highlighted the struggle of African Americans to achieve racial equality and the trauma suffered along the way from the 1600s to today.
The lessons of the podcast underscore that Juneteenth isn’t simply a day. It’s one day in a chain of events that are tied to both celebration as well as trauma in the black community throughout generations.
“Everybody hurts somewhere,” he said, “Just because it’s not physical, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Everyone has a hurt, a pain, and being able to access that and talk about that is what will bring people together and drive empathy. But, first, we have to talk about it.”
What Can We Say?
Generations of black folx did not have the opportunity, safety, or ability to speak about their own struggles. From the legacy of silence surrounding events like the Tulsa race massacre, to the fact that Juneteenth was only acknowledged as a Federal holiday in the United States just days ago, we see that educating the next generation about Juneteenth is essential.
“My grandmother grew up picking cotton. She was a maid her whole life,” said one Alfred team member. Where her grandmother had to constantly push against blatant, institutionalized racism in her generation, this member of the Alfred community saw that in her generation, she could strive.
She found a community in college that celebrated her blackness. She dove into her community’s history, educating herself about her heritage and sharing that information with the younger generation.
“I thought, ‘How can I be more knowledgeable? How can we educate children so that they appreciate their black heritage and celebrate it?”
What Can We Do?
Education is not simply a vehicle for remembrance. It’s a vehicle for change. Education reduces the fear that surrounds having hard conversations around race, microaggressions, and building a more diverse, equitable world.
Through education we give ourselves the tool we need to make change. But, making change requires deliberate, repeated, coordinated action.
Alfred is, and will continue to represent the communities it serves, strive for more equity, and join the community in celebration, education, and agitation — especially on days like today.
- What is Juneteenth?
- Understanding Juneteenth
- Emancipation Proclamation
- 1619 Project
- Talking About Race
- Race and Policing in America