WHAT IS JUNETEETH?
Happy Juneteenth Day! Juneteenth, the African American holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States, is now a federal holiday. This came into effect last year when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. WCUI School of Medical Imaging and other federal institutions will be closed on Sunday, June 19th, and on Monday, June 20th to observe the national holiday. All WCUI campuses and offices will reopen, and classes will resume on Tuesday, June 21st.
The name derives from the date of the holiday, combining the words “June” and “nineteenth.” On June 19, 1865, all enslaved people in the United States were finally notified of their freedom when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed the state’s residents that slavery had been abolished. This occurred two years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, a declaration that had declared more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states to be free. However, it took over two years for the news to reach African Americans living in Texas. The former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, feasting, song, and dance.
HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
Juneteenth was originally celebrated with prayer meetings, singing spirituals, and wearing new clothes to represent newfound freedom. Today, people celebrate Juneteenth by shooting fireworks, gathering at a cookout, spending time with family and friends, and sipping on red drinks – a symbol of perseverance and the bloodshed of African Americans.
Four ways you can celebrate Juneteenth today:
- Support Black Businesses – Any product or service you need can be found and purchased through a Black-owned business.
- Educate yourself and educate others – Learning about Juneteenth is just the first step to honoring the holiday, but it is also important to spread the word and educate others. If your workplace or school does not honor the holiday, you can inquire about the reasoning behind that decision.
- Donate to organizations that support black communities – Find organizations that resonate with your beliefs or support causes you are passionate about and send them a pleasant donation.
- Attend Juneteenth events in your local city – there are many cities that have educational and fun events for the community. This would be another wonderful opportunity to educate yourself.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Although Juneteenth has been a tradition in the United States for more than 150 years, many Americans just learned about the holiday when it became a federal holiday in 2021. Honoring Juneteenth recognizes our country’s past and the systemic inequities that still exist today. It is important that we educate ourselves about our country’s history so that we can work together in pursuit of true equity and justice within our organizations, families, and communities. How will you honor Juneteenth this year?