Today many Americans will stop to celebrate and acknowledge what has been coined “Juneteenth”. Some may be wondering where Juneteenth came from or why it became a Federal Holiday. Others have asked about the difference between the 4th of July and Juneteenth. To answer many of these questions, I have to reflect on my own personal experiences and history as an African American female in the south. Being completely transparent, my family only began fully embracing Juneteenth in 2018. Growing up in the south, being African American, Black, and a person of color, we were not always proud of our darker skin or how we stood out in a sea of white faces in the classrooms or on the job. So many situations reinforced in us that being Black was not accepted in certain environments.
Over the last decade, there has been a rebirth of pride and celebration of diversity. America’s attention has been drawn to celebrating Black history and culture. Companies, institutions, leaders, and even our friends and families began talking about being more inclusive and embracing cultures that were not the majority. Out of these times, a renewed acceptance of Juneteenth was born. This new Federal holiday provided a chance for all of America to celebrate the last of the enslaved Americans in Texas gaining their freedom.
Of course each year we spend time celebrating the 4th of July with big BBQs, parties to commemorate our nation’s independence, and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. We typically join together with friends and family to reflect on our great nation and the freedoms we are afforded. Now, my family along with many others, have added another celebration signaling a final day of freedom for those who were still enslaved after July 4, 1776. Juneteenth will be full of community events, diverse foods, parades, music, and overall celebration of freedom.
ICS friends, if you have some quiet time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a country, our hopes for the future, or whether you attend a big Juneteenth celebration in your area, I hope you enjoy your Juneteenth and join us in celebrating freedom for all!
Celeste Bradley is ICS Director of EEO Services