Observing and Celebrating Juneteenth at BayLegal

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Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900. Texas [Photograph by Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray), housed in the Austin History Center at the Austin Public Library. Public domain].

On the eve of Juneteenth 2022, which we will observe on Monday June 20th, 2022, we pause and reflect on the significance this holiday holds for our organization, our communities and each of us individually.

On June 19th, 1865, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, a community of enslaved African Americans in Galveston Bay Texas finally received word that they were freed from slavery. This day became known as Juneteenth to the newly freed people of Texas and later as a day of celebration and commemoration to the African American descendants of those who were held in bondage for so many generations.

Not all of us have observed this as a holiday for much of our lives, and each of us might have a different relationship with its meaning and impact.  Thus, we are encouraged to use this not only as a time of introspection, but also as an opportunity to learn about the lasting and pervasive impact the institution of slavery continues to have on our country and individual communities.

Therefore, it is impossible to ignore that this holiday came to be recognized by our organization and the Federal government in 2021 only after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and the unprecedented protests calling for the justice that Black people have been denied in America since its inception.  With this in mind, we are tasked with honoring this holiday with the somber importance that it deserves. Juneteenth will likely be co-opted and branded for capitalist gain, but we can choose to observe in ways that reflect the gravity of its historical importance.

The following could be used to learn more about the meaning of Juneteenth:

  • Read landmark works such as Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns that details the extraordinary lengths Black Americans were forced to undertake to leave the southern states for a perceived better life in the American North, Midwest and West.
  • Familiarize ourselves with the powerful stories captured in Nicole Hannah Jones’s award-winning journalism in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story which ties our very foundations as a nation with the arrival of the first enslaved peoples on our shores in 1619.
  • Resist the idea that learning the truth about our nation’s founding and history will somehow make us weaker or divided when so many lives were lost in the hope that one day a path to reparations would be clear and dreams of freedom would be realized.
  • Support Black owned businesses and Black colleagues.  Support Black colleagues by offering to assist in their workloads so they can observe this and other holidays.  To find a Black owned business to support near you, please visit https://www.supportblackowned.com/.

 

Contributions by Christian Henricksen and Maighna Jain