Juneteenth is short for “June Nineteenth” which marks the end of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and to ensure that all enslaved people be freed. This was two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 stating that all enslaved people be freed in the confederate states.
The 155-year-old celebration of Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee day, and Emancipation Day. It grew with more participation from slave descendants as they acknowledged this as their Independence Day and spread to other states.
As we advance toward racial reconciliations and atonement, Juneteenth is now being recognized as a paid holiday by businesses such as Google, Target, Square, Nike, Twitter and more. Association Forum is doing its part by closing the office on Friday, June 19, 2020 to celebrate significance of this day that is recognized in 47 states with pending legislation in Congress.
Let’s use Juneteenth to be more than a statement. This is a day to take individual responsibility and accountability to contribute towards easing frustrations and initiating civil dialogues on how to make this nation a place where all feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging.
The Association Forum team will use this opportunity to reflect on where we are as an association and nation and how we can be part of the solution to celebrate freedom, justice and equality for all. We will use this time deliver on our core value of Welcoming Environment and help our community as we continue to heal.
We are opening our minds and hearts as we start to reopen our association. We are using this as an opportunity to have deep, uncomfortable and meaningful conversations.
As you celebrate on Juneteenth and beyond, focus on hearing, healing and helping.
- Hearing: Take the first step by having a courageous conversation. Intentionally connect with someone from a different race or ethnic background to have a conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion. This conversation might feel uncomfortable at first. That is ok. It starts the transformation process. We have spent decades not addressing the root cause of our racial tensions in America. This is a window of opportunity. We must work hard to leverage this moment in history while everyone is listening and open to change.
- Healing: There is power in questions. I recently read that questions are more important than answers because questions seek, frame and expose while answers are temporary responses that change. Questions help to uncover challenges to produce more effective solutions. We must unlearn the biases that has framed our thinking. We are all impacted and exhausted and tired. We are experiencing this change in different ways. It is imperative that we support and hold each other accountable through the healing process.
- Helping: We are at a tipping point of transformational change. The new reality is upon us. We are incrementally evolving and must do our part. It takes more than conversation; it requires action and personal accountability. It doesn’t have to be a breakthrough. Start from where you are. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the staircase.” Intentionally identify opportunities to engage with others from different racial and ethnic backgrounds through volunteer service, speaking at events or panel discussions. Hold those accountable for saying racist or inflammatory remarks about others. Speak up when you are exposed to stereotypical discussions that marginalize others. Visit a local community to understand the social economic conditions. Join a virtual community or create your own that exposes you to broader perspectives on racism and injustice.
Look around you. The opportunities are endless. Use Juneteenth to take the first step to a new beginning. This is not a sprint; it will be a journey. The step starts with you.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sincerely,Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE
President and CEO