The Importance of Juneteenth
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On June 19, 1865, U.S. Army General Gordon Granger visited Galveston, TX and read aloud General Order No. 3 which informed everyone about the end of the war and freedom for Black people.
Juneteenth was formally recognized as a national holiday last year to honor this date.
There are multiple ways to celebrate Juneteenth that highlight its cultural importance.
In 2021, the United States officially recognized the longest-running Black American holiday, Juneteenth. On June 17, President Joe Biden signed a bill, marking the day as a federal holiday.
It has a deep meaning and its traditions both honor previous generations and present opportunities and promise that lay ahead for Black Americans.
We recently spoke with Pernell Jones, executive director of strategic development for Providence and a member of the Southern California (SoCal) Black Caregiver Resource Group about the importance of Juneteenth.
What do Juneteenth celebrations commemorate?
“Juneteenth is a special time of year for my family and I. Long before it was a national holiday, most Black Americans from Galveston Island and around Texas would celebrate by grilling food, drinking red soda, participating in parades and discussing current events in the United States. It is a rich tradition to honor those who came before us and to build community among family and friends," Jones says.
"Although I was born in California, my father maintained a close connection with his Texas roots—by default, we celebrated Juneteenth in Galveston or Los Angeles every summer. It was surreal when the federal government recognized Juneteenth as a national holiday last year because growing up, it was tradition without permission. Since becoming a federal holiday, I think it is important to clear up some common misperceptions on when, why, and how we celebrate.”
In this photo, parade attendees wave the official Juneteenth flag. Source: OprahDaily.com
Here are a few important facts about the history of Juneteenth:
- Juneteenth references the date of the holiday -- June 19.
- During the height of U.S. Civil War on January 1, 1863, President Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation through an executive order, which declared Black people in the Confederate States free from chattel enslavement.
- It is worth mentioning that President Lincoln was not the president of the Confederate States at the time of his proclamation; however, it motivated over 200,000 formerly enslaved people to join the U.S. Army and fight for others still in bondage.
- On April 9, 1865, the Confederate States surrendered marking the end of the four-year-long war.
- On June 19, 1865, U.S. Army General Gordon Granger visited Galveston, TX and read aloud General Order No. 3 which informed everyone about the end of the war and freedom for Black people.
- Delaware and Kentucky were neutral during the Civil War and thus still enslaved people until the ratification of the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution on December 6, 1865, which abolished chattel slavery nationwide (except as a punishment for being convicted of a crime).
- There are other Emancipation (or Freedom) Days celebrated throughout the United States that are not well-known, including: Washington D.C., April 16; Florida, May 20; Georgia, last Saturday of May; Tennessee, August 8; and Mississippi, May 8.
“Compassion, justice and empathy come to mind when thinking about our shared history,” Jones says. “I invite everyone to think about ways in which we can honor the past and ensure a just future.”
Symbols of Juneteenth
Most celebrations include a wide variety of mostly red foods and a flag. These are certainly festive components to any gathering, but it’s the colors and symbols behind them that are meaningful.
In this photo: Pernell drinking red soda while visiting the Old Central High School in Galveston, Summer 2005. There is a lot of history in Galveston, TX, particularly concerning education. Black Americans wanted their taxes allocated to build a high school immediately after the civil war. Furthermore, following the end of the civil war, literacy rates among Black Americans climbed from 20% in 1870 to nearly 70% in 1910 per the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Prior, learning to read or write was a punishable offense in many States.
What is the Providence Black Caregiver Resource Group, and how do the members celebrate this holiday?
Caregivers at Providence are deeply committed to improving access to care and overall health in Black communities. Specifically, the Black Caregiver Resource Group (BCRG) is a volunteer, employee-led group dedicated to highlighting the contributions and voices of Black caregivers in our community.
Together with the Providence Southern California Diversity Equity and Inclusion Council, it’s deeply involved in spreading awareness of Juneteenth and its cultural impact.
How can you celebrate Juneteenth?
Celebrating Juneteenth can be done in many ways – and you can find an event in your area.
If you live in these locations, consider these celebrations:
- Visit the Juneteenth Art x Culture Festival which includes performing artists, guest speakers, workshops and food.
- Attend the Juneteenth Hollywood Bowl, featuring an all-star line-up of Black musical artists.
- Participate in the Juneteenth Community Listening Session, an opportunity to voice your thoughts and opinions to the California Reparations Task Force, as well as enjoy guest speakers, food and entertainment.
- Join the San Francisco Citywide BSU, a youth-led collaborative that offers a safe space to discussions and socializing.
- Attend Juneteenth 2022 – San Francisco Black Wallstreet, an event with live music, amusement park rides, food, and community resources.
- Visit Juneteenth Oregon 2022 Portal – Clara Peoples Trail Parade on June 18 to support local vendors, be part of the parade, and see the Miss Juneteenth Pageant.
- Join in the Rise Up Weekend celebration that includes a health fair, live music, senior breakfast, live music, pageant, fireworks, and parade.
- Participate in the week-long Iron Riders Juneteenth Celebration at Fort Missoula, including a bike ride, Missoula Paddleheads baseball game, poker game, live music, and more.
- Join in the fun at Juneteenth in Delaney Park, including vendors, entertainment, a parade, a pageant, and live speakers all celebrating African American culture.
- Join the crowd for live music at New Mexico Juneteenth.
Are you looking to celebrate in a socially distanced way? You can visit these sites to learn more about Juneteenth and Black history:
- Black Broadway
- Civil Rights Trail
- Freedom March
- Google Arts & Culture’s Black History and Culture
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights
A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
Providence SoCal Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council (SoCal DEI) is leading some of our efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to help build appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures as a way to create a more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive environment. We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, thus deepening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.
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Related SoCal DEI resources
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.