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Juneteenth is coming!

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas. He announced that the 250,000 Black people still enslaved in Texas– despite the Civil War’s end two months prior and the Emancipation Proclamation being two years old– were free. A spontaneous and jubilant celebration followed, and the annual commemoration of the historic day has been celebrated by African American communities around the country ever since.

Some Juneteenth celebrations are personal, involving only family and friends and a lot of good food, but in some cities, parades and large-scale celebrations are hosted. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have moved to make Juneteenth a statewide holiday. Federal legislation passed this week with overwhelming support in both chambers of Congress, and President Biden is scheduled to sign a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Many companies also decided to recognize Juneteenth last year, with Twitter, Square, Target, and others giving employees a paid vacation day.

Juneteenth is about celebrating the end of a horrendous injustice and looking forward towards the future at what can still be done to promote equality. It’s a fantastic opportunity to invite all kinds of people to learn more about the history of civil rights in the United States and how we can all work together to create a more inclusive future. 

Last year was a historic year for many reasons, one of which was the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement due to the highly publicized murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others by law enforcement. With the renewed focus on activism surrounding racial equity, it’s important to remember that one of the most crucial elements of building a solid and lasting coalition that can create meaningful change on a national level is working in solidarity with other minority groups.

Last year’s mass shooting at several spas in Georgia mirrored a startling rise in reports of anti-Asian hate crimes. Overwhelmingly, these crimes are spurned in conjunction with fear-mongering about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis.  Efforts to dispel misinformation, racial stereotypes and discrimination have led to  increased support for the Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate movement, aiming to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by members of the AAPI community due to racism and join the fight to end systemic inequality. 

Historically, it has always been crucial to have as many different kinds of people as possible working towards the end of racial injustice; the Black and AAPI communities must stand together to work towards this goal. Everyone’s lived experience of racism is different, and the way that it manifests in the lives of AAPI and Black people is often wholly distinct, but by working together towards true, meaningful change and learning more about each other, we can strengthen the bond between communities and thwart those who attempt to divide us. 

Juneteenth is a wonderful opportunity for the Black community to celebrate a momentous occasion and for those who don’t know much about the community or the ongoing fight for civil rights to educate themselves and learn more about the unique, beautiful culture African Americans have created. By sharing this holiday and spreading awareness of its significance, we can promote understanding and solidarity among people and help to grow the movement towards racial equality in this country.