Juneteenth – The Uncelebrated Holiday

Authored by Dr. Justin Harper, Bryan U Fitness Program Director, Professor, and Coordinator for Bryan U’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Awareness Committee (IDEA Committee).

As a 33-year-old black male, I’ve been fortunate to live in three different states, spent time in over 20 states across the U.S., traveled to two countries outside of the U.S., and have befriended people from a variety of backgrounds. I’ve also had the opportunity to work at a variety of companies and higher learning institutions where I’ve worked with a plethora of individuals. I share this because when it comes to Juneteenth, many of the people that I have encountered have never heard of Juneteenth. Yes, you read that correctly. Now, I’d like those of you reading this article to be honest with yourself – have you heard of Juneteenth? For those of you that have heard of Juneteenth, do you truly understand what it represents and its significance?

Let’s dive a little deeper.

I don’t claim to be a black history historian, but fortunately for me I have a mother that coordinated a Juneteenth celebration when I was younger, so it’s something that I’ve been well aware of for many years. For those of you that don’t know, Juneteenth is a blending of the words June and nineteenth, as it’s the oldest known U.S. celebration of the end of slavery. It commemorates June 19, 1865. This is the day that Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation from slavery.

This is an important milestone in our country, yet it’s rarely celebrated and recognized in mainstream media, and it’s a holiday that is not given a day off by most employers. How can this be? In full transparency, there are a multitude of important holidays that are not celebrated and recognized as much as they should be, so there is no one person to blame. The only way holidays such as Juneteenth get the recognition they deserve is by people bringing awareness to their existence and by those people that were previously not hip to their existence opening their minds and hearts in order to take the time to learn, as after all, that is how we grow as a society and change for the better.

How is Juneteenth celebrated?

This is a day that combines prayer, family, and fun. The celebrations take many different forms, from small backyard celebrations, to extravagant parades through large metropolitan areas. These celebrations are so much more than just a good time, they are representative of black people finally being free. I think this may warrant major recognition in the future, yet here in the year 2020 we are just finally starting to see companies recognize Juneteenth – and this is a great start – but Juneteenth should be a national holiday. Will we one day see “Juneteenth Independence Day” recognized nationally? The jury is still out, but hopefully this article has brought increased awareness surrounding this important day. Share this read with a friend, family member, or co-worker.

Now let’s celebrate Juneteenth this week!

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