On June 19, 1865, over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with federal orders proclaiming that all enslaved persons in the state of Texas were free.
Over the years, Juneteenth has grown in popularity and is now recognized as a state holiday or special observance in 47 of the 50 states.
This Juneteenth is both a time of reflection and a moment for concern. While we acknowledge the 155th commemoration of the freeing of the last slaves in the state of Texas, it is against the backdrop of four Black men found hanging from trees in California, Texas, and New York. It is against the backdrop of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice and countless Black women and men who have died as a result of systemic racism and police brutality.
Juneteenth 2020 comes at a time of civil, peaceful protests that proclaim loudly and unapologetically that Black Lives Matter!
As we commemorate this day, we are emboldened by the words of Audre Lorde:
“and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive”
“Our survival, our continued resilience, our continued efforts for social justice are direct threats and challenges to systemic oppressions. We must, at all costs, do whatever we can to lift up and protect one another in our interconnected struggles for liberation.” (The Audre Lorde Project online, 2014)
Happy Juneteenth to all who commemorate and celebrate. And let’s keep doing the hard work needed to make America truly equal.
Madria Marshall, MA | Director of Human Resources
Terry Smith, MPH | Director of Sexual Health and HIV Prevention Services
Steven Vitero, DDS | Dental Director
Vallerie Wagner, MS | Clinic Director II