Author: Allyson S. Belton, MPH, Satcher Health Leadership Institute
Juneteenth is more than just a celebration of freedom. It represents long-standing hope and promise of change to come. Since the reading of General Order Number 3 by General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to the present day, Juneteenth recognitions possess an air of joy and achievement while remembering the struggle of a people who could only hold on to the hope of freedom and better times.
This past week’s passage of the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” designating Juneteenth as a legal public holiday marks a culture shift in how our society recognizes slavery’s place in the history of our country.
Once a regional celebration by selected groups of people, then expanded to recognition by some states and/or organizations, we have now reached a significant place in time where we as a country have brought this day to a place of respect and acknowledgment, especially in a time of social justice and racial reckoning. Even with the federal acknowledgment, there is still much to be done within this culture shift. We must continue to educate, work to inform and change policies that will drive our society to a more equitable place for all by breaking down the systemic barriers that have upheld these longstanding inequities. We are still hopeful, we still have promise, and we still believe in the path to freedom and equity for all.