During this time of community violence and subsequent trauma within our community and a need for racial healing and equity, nationally, NAZ leadership has decided to make Juneteenth, (aka, Emancipation Day), a paid holiday for our staff this year and going forward. While Juneteenth has been a celebrated holiday by African Americans and recognized by 46 states for many years, we are excited and inspired by the fact that key hometown businesses and some local nonprofits, like our partners at Cookie Cart and Urban Homeworks, are also making it a paid holiday. We hope that our actions spark other organizations to follow our lead and that one day, with enough groundswell, Juneteenth becomes a federal holiday for all Americans.
Why Juneteenth? Why now?
On June 19, 1865, the last enslaved descendants of Africans were informed of their freedom in Galveston, Texas. That announcement marked the true end of slavery in America, although the Emancipation Proclamation had been the law of land since January of 1863. For more than two years, the violence and brutality of slavery continued to be practiced illegally in Texas and in pockets throughout the United States, well after the Civil War ended slavery.
Juneteenth, a holiday of celebration and community healing, began in 1866, celebrated by the newly freed African Americans and spread throughout Black communities across the country. Today, Juneteenth is a day of powerful community connection, service, and remembrance. It attests to the strength, dignity, and resiliency of African Americans in the face of racism and oppression. The holiday has largely stood as a reminder to African-Americans of the God-given truth of our freedom too long denied in America, but it is our hope that all Americans will embrace and celebrate the historical significance of this holiday as an act of solidarity, healing, and love.
Honoring American History and our dedication to a more racially just future through the celebration of Juneteenth is but a small thing we can do for our greatest organizational asset, our staff, and to advance healing and equity in our city and state. This Juneteenth, we will celebrate by being in service to our community with a reverence for the past and envisioning a future where Black bodies are free from the violence and bondage of our defective justice system, brutality at the hands of police, and the opportunity gaps that suppress the unlimited potential of African Americans.
Where to Celebrate Juneteenth:
Browse your local news sources and community groups on Facebook, Instagram and Eventbrite for events in your area. In Minneapolis, check out this list of activities put on by the Minneapolis Parks & Recreations board.
A Call to Action:
If you lead an organization, please join us. If you work for an organization, please ask your leadership to join us. If you are a policymaker in an institution, please join us. If you are an ally to the cause of justice and you can take the day off to be in service to community, please join us. If you cannot take the day off, please honor the day the best way you can and never stop advocating throughout your areas of influence for the widespread commemoration of Juneteenth along with the truth and racial healing it stands for. It is always the right time to do the right thing. Honoring all that Juneteenth represents with paid time off for staff is the right thing to do. And the right time is now!