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Juneteenth: Taking a moment to remember and reflect
This week the senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring Juneteeth a federal holiday. While the first Juneteenth was celebrated in 1865 with the emancipation of the United States’ last slaves, today, in 2021, we acknowledge the devastating and generational impact slavery and racism has had on the Black American community. Despite the weight placed upon them, we also take this day to celebrate the resilience and myriad contributions Black Americans have continued to make to our country along the way. There is a long way still to go, but with the generosity of Black educators, artists, businesspeople, colleagues, friends, and neighbors—really, wherever Black Americans rest and work and create—we are better able to move toward a world that not only tolerates differences but celebrates them.
As our first Black president, Barack Obama, said in his 2015 Juneteenth statement, long before the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the resultant protests of 2020, “Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.” Little did he know of the suffering still to come, nor the collective awakening of so many more Americans in the months that followed. His words, though, are all the more true now—we look to the pain in our past and present while we continue to work towards a harmonious and abundant future for Black Americans.
We hope this Juneteenth, you will take the opportunity to reflect on our history and how we can all work together to impact our future. As we are indebted to the Black community, we celebrate the beauty they bring to our country today, and we commit to the ongoing work of liberation.
Happy Juneteenth to all.