Juneteenth: A Day of Reflection
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.
The day recognizes the date when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, and freed the remaining enslaved people on June 19, 1865, even though they had been legally free when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed two and a half years earlier. Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or as a second Independence Day for the United States.
Last year, legislation was signed into law recognizing the day as Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. This is the first new U.S. federal holiday since the creation of Martin Luther King Day. As we prepare to recognize Juneteenth and the hard-fought battles that led to abolishing slavery in the United States, the moral stain of slavery is a reminder that we can overcome obstacles by working together for a common cause.
The Black Experience Employee Resource Group (ERG)
The Black Experience ERG is dedicated to working together to support the development of Black Vonage team members and allies while promoting a corporate culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Last year, the Black Experience ERG hosted an event in honor of Juneteenth. Gathering a panel, the group examined the speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July'' by Frederick Douglass.
The panelists discussed whether Independence Day held the same meaning for people who were enslaved during the signing of the Declaration of Independence and their descendants.
This year, the Black Experience ERG is encouraging its members and allies to show solidarity in observing the day. Several of our team members shared their thoughts ahead of Juneteenth:
Samantha Alexander, Partner Operations Manager - API Partners
It’s important to recognize Juneteenth to raise awareness and acknowledge that not all of our ancestors were free when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. Generations to come also need to be aware that the American story of independence was not extended to everyone at the same time. Juneteenth is a reminder of the past and present delayed justice we have endured and continue to face today. It’s only when we begin to acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about African American history, that can we really begin to address and remove barriers. This year, I’m celebrating the holiday with my family. I will attend a Juneteenth parade and then celebrate with family and friends at a crawfish boil.
Eric Matthews, Manager, Product and Technical Sales/Care Enablement
Juneteenth recognizes the official end of European-influenced slavery and the period in which our nation ended the dark practice. For African Americans, in general, Juneteenth is our Independence Day. There were 87 years of acknowledging America’s Independence Day before African Americans were able to celebrate their freedom, not to mention that it was 89 years before the remaining enslaved people in Galveston, Texas would be freed. In my opinion, Juneteenth represents freedom. It’s a time to feel free and do as I please with my free time. It’s a day to reflect on and truly appreciate the freedom that we all truly have in this great nation and in most of the world. This year, I’ll be sharing Juneteenth with Father’s Day. I’m proud of both. My family has also started an annual Juneteenth family call where we meet up and discuss our family history dating back to Phyllis Matthews, an enslaved Virginian, and the oldest ancestor known to my family.
Tajuana Selby, Senior Manager of Customer Success
Juneteenth represents freedom and independence for African Americans in this country. It is extremely important that we take time to celebrate and acknowledge the insurmountable journey that African Americans in this country have taken to simply gain our freedom. This country was built on the backs of our ancestors through their pain, blood, sweat and tears. Our families were raped, tortured and murdered during slavery and on June 19, 1865, we were freed. Take a moment and think about that. Think about our journey to freedom and think about the lives that were sacrificed to gain that freedom. Think about all of the contributions that African Americans have made to America and ask yourself why...why would this day be anything less than a celebration, a time to reflect, acknowledge and honor the emancipation of African American people?
Looking backward to advance forward
Juneteenth is a time we can come together and reflect on where we’ve been as a country, where we are, and what we need to do to wrestle with the legacy of institutional racism. To all honoring this as a day of reflection or celebration we wish you a Juneteenth National Independence Day that is full of hope.