Juneteenth, A Celebration of Freedom

Today we celebrate Juneteenth with some reflections on the day shared by our employees. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that a group of Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and along with it anyone enslaved was now free. Amazingly, the news of freedom came nearly two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation. News of freedom was met with shock and joy. The term Juneteenth was coined to celebrate this occasion and as a way to remember and celebrate this occasion. 

This year we reflect upon Juneteenth together as a nation, as our country continues to struggle with racism highlighted by years of unfair and unjust treatment of Black women and men in our country. Civil unrest in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd demonstrate that while freedom may have been declared on June 19, 1865, we still have much work to do towards equality. 

Parents, you can introduce and celebrate Juneteenth with your children using these books curated by the Cincinnati Public Library.  You can also check out this reading of Juneteenth for Maize by Floyd Cooper.

Juneteenth Reflections By Employees of Beech Acres Parenting Center

“My sweet Juneteenth! The day that I get to celebrate my people! My gorgeous people! Getting together with family to celebrate the undeniable resilience that it has taken to get where we are today while bringing awareness to where we still must go.  Every year I take off and make sure I wear red to show resilience and my pride in my history. Teaching my daughter at a young age the importance of learning her history at home because she won’t learn about the beauty of the day in school. My sweet Juneteenth. With everything going on it makes me so proud to see people preparing to celebrate this sweet day. To heal broken hearts with smiles and laughter, love and support amid the world’s largest civil protest. I love my sweet Juneteenth that my ancestors died for, we have worked hard, and the work is not over. My sweet Juneteenth is just what is needed right now, and I am more excited to celebrate and educate this year than I ever have been. My sweet Juneteenth.” – Ashley Gray, Team Lead, Beyond the Classroom

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Juneteenth – An African American Nightmare 

Dreams, cries of pain and despair

Fueled by grit and strength

Assaulted at freedom’s door

Juneteenth – An African American Dream

A stifled breath caught up in

a faint, whispered prayer

carried to the ear of God

Jill Gaines, Kinship Navigator, Kinship Connections

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When the email came across my desk asking for individuals in the company to share their memories of Juneteenth, I had to pause for a moment and think hard. Juneteenth was not a day that was celebrated in my home. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember it being taught as part of the history lesson in school. It was briefly scanned over as a day slaves were set free called The Emancipation Proclamation. Growing up on the east coast, I don’t remember Juneteenth being a big celebration at all. It was not a place on the calendar as a major holiday like July 4th, Independence Day. The in-depth history lessons I learned about the African American culture and people came after I obtained my bachelor’s degree and through my graduate school studies. I’ve asked a few people about their participation in the Juneteenth Celebrations and many know about the day and have heard of the day but have not participated in the celebration. My perspective is though “Colored people, Negros, Blacks, African Americans” (the many names we have identified with trying to find identity on this soil) were emancipated, however, there still was and is a cost for freedom. Emancipation for African Americans is still costing many their lives. –Lindoria B. Felder, The Character Effect Specialist, New Business Development

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Juneteenth. What a glorious day for Black people to pause, reflect and celebrate the powerful meaning and memories of what this day means! For me, I recall the painful memories of my loved ones and ancestors who suffered a lifetime of pain, mistreatment and death, all because of the color of their skin. I think about all of the movies that I have seen in my lifetime depicting and chronicling America’s stained history with racism and Black people. I recall the sadness and anger that my parents would express while watching the evening news, and trying to explain racism to me. I think about all of my own very personal and painful experiences with racism. Just as my anger grows and peaks, I begin to feel a sense of pride because we have survived so much and we have come so far! Juneteenth falls in June and that’s also Black Music Month- another beautiful thing to celebrate. I feel especially proud of my Black heritage and all the things that go along with being Black. As a marginalized and oppressed race, we have always had to celebrate ourselves and the wonderful things that make us uniquely who we are: our hair, our skin, our bodies, our voices, our culture, our music, our rhythm, our afro-centric style, our foods, and so much more. We had to. If we didn’t, who would? It was not always popular or trendy to be “Black.” For Black people, we don’t’ get to “opt in” or “subscribe.” Being black is prescribed to us the moment we come into this world.  I know that we have a very long way to go and this is not a quick fix situation at all.  Yet, I remain hopeful and optimistic that with genuine-inside-out-down-to the-bone-marrow type of change, WE can do this. “We” stands for the collective human race.  It will require all humans to be allies, to speak up and speak out; even when it’s scary and uncomfortable. I want to believe that in my lifetime, a holiday like Juneteenth will be understood, appreciated and honored by all humans, not just Black ones. Peace & Blessings, Cheryl Riley, Team Lead & Sr. Therapist, Beyond the Classroom

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I grew up in a small-town north of Columbus, Oh, a town that still carried some veins of segregation, but I didn’t realize it much. I appreciated that small-town I grew up in, because they honored the what should be a national paid holiday; Juneteenth. We had a whole weekend of events, much like a 4th of July celebrations. We had various speakers, black-owned vendors, performances, and various activities to allow the whole city to honor our ancestors being free in 1865. During that weekend I felt so proud of my small-town living. I felt the excitement every time Juneteenth came around and we didn’t miss it for nothing. I’m thankful that I was able to see all nationalities celebrating the true freedom of African Americans. This weekend marks 155 years that African Americans were truly freed in America. Just 155 years to the date only two states currently honor it as a national holiday. 

This weekend I will be back in my small-town enjoying the Juneteenth activities with all types of people, from various walks of life. I hope to see a change and that Juneteenth can be honored nationally in all 50 states. Shalay Pitts, MSW, Team Lead-Learning Centers

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Thank you for this opportunity in honor of Juneteenth! Sadly, I feel completely inadequate about this topic. For this offense I’m sure my black card will be revoked but this part of the culture I have missed. The full explanation I discovered recently and was blown away. Growing up I really don’t recall it being taught and that is unfortunate. It is also not too surprising, a lot of what makes us, us, they don’t want us to know and the systems in place hide information. Wonderful pieces of our puzzle remain lost at sea. I think the celebration is one that SHOULD be honored and celebrated. I kind of feel like the guys who heard the news because as I view Juneteenth I feel like everyone knew but me. I think it is symbolic of ALL the catching up to do we have done and still have in front of us as a race. Thank God for the information age that we can educate ourselves on mostly anything these days. I thought maybe Juneteenth could be a respite day jr but that may be a stretch. David T. Brand Jr. MA LPC Therapist

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CHASMS and BRIDGES By Ted L Glines

Whether dancing the circle
or sitting in the pews,
the world is full of wonder
and knee-jerk news.

For those full of spite
and woeful complaining,
the world is full of darkness;
no hope remaining.

Diversity spawns,
attacking spasms,
elevating hate
and deepening the chasms.

You are who you are,
smart as a fox;
why confine yourself
to a bleak little box?

For those full of love
and compassion caring,
the world is full of brightness
and warmth in sharing.

Diversity spawns
a chance to build bridges,
elevating love
and life privileges.

You are who you are,
smart as a fox;
expressing yourself,
you’re out of that box!

We can make this world
a beautiful place
if we toss away frowns
and put smiles on our face.

Abolish that burden
of complaints you’ve been lugging;
begin building bridges
and get used to hugging!

Submitted by: Wynnette R. Boykin, MSW, LISW, Supervisor, Behavioral Health