In recent years, Juneteenth has gained significant and much-deserved recognition as a national holiday. Throughout the weekend and into Monday, many will begin hosting and attending a multitude of festive and historic Juneteenth celebrations and I am beyond proud that all of us at Texas Children’s are able to come together to help celebrate Juneteenth as One Amazing Team.
June 19, 1865 was the day that enslaved African-Americans in Texas gained their freedom. This news came to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas more than two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all enslaved people were now free.
One year later in 1866, the celebration of Juneteenth began as a day of reflection, joy and unity. Today, communities often commemorate this day with parades, concerts and picnics that feature music, dance, storytelling and soulful food.
However, above all the festivities, Juneteenth celebrates the immense strength that can arise when diverse communities — just like our own — come together to advocate for justice, equality and opportunity for all.
The history surrounding Juneteenth also holds deep significance and represents the long-awaited arrival of freedom for millions of Black men, women and children. I have shared before that slavery and racism are without a doubt, a stain on our nation’s history, but by looking back on the past — even the parts we wish never took place — we can learn to foster understanding and empathy and make a commitment to create a more inclusive future.
While Juneteenth celebrates the abolishment of slavery, it also serves as a reminder that the struggle for racial equality and justice is far from over. As much as I wish it were different, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that there are still persistent systemic injustices that continue to impact marginalized communities today.
We cannot turn a blind eye or ignore the hate in this world. Because not only does it exist, it has the ability to inundate future generations if we let it.
How will anything ever change if we do not face injustices and inequalities head-on and stand together for change?
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. — “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
As we celebrate the beauty and joy that Juneteenth represents, we must also acknowledge that while we have come so far, there is much more to be done in our nation and beyond. And as we indulge in the festivities, I also urge you to take a moment and ask yourself — how can you honor and commemorate Juneteenth in a way that is meaningful to you?