Written by Kiara Powell
June 19th, or “Juneteenth,” is a day when America celebrates the ending of institutional slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. It is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. The word Juneteenth is a combination of the date June and 19th, which is the date when slaves in Texas finally got word of their freedom, in 1865. It was on this day that Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and those who were enslaved were now free. The proclamation was issued under order number three which started with: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Although the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1865, it took 6 months for slaves in Texas to find out, and it still didn’t take effect even under federal law. The Emancipation Proclamation received extreme, violent backlash by the white population of America especially in the south, and many black people were hung or shot if they dared to show any signs of freedom. In one slave’s essay, she noted that she continued to work for her mistress for an additional six years. Although the joy of Juneteenth was short-lived due to the rise of Jim Crow, what never diminished was that moment of pure joy for Black Americans of not being seen as second class citizens.
This spirit of victory that rose from Juneteenth’s beginings can be a source of inspiration, especially during times when we feel that the odds are against us as we move through our careers. Even though the rise of Jim Crow tried to silence the celebration of Juneteenth, there are many stories of black people reveling in freedom even with the looming threat of white supremacy hanging over their heads. We can apply this to our lives if you might be facing any micro-aggressions or a hostile professional environment. If someone tries to make a sly remark at you, continue to celebrate the freedom your ancestors fought for however you can in the office, whether it’s killing it at a presentation, channeling your anger and annoyance into creative energy for your work, or even taking a stroll outside to get fresh air.
Another way is to show kindness to your peers, and use your resources to help them reach success. When slavery ended, the Freedman’s Bureau, which was an organization started by Congress in order to build the South during Reconstruction after the Civil War in 1865. Organizers in The Freedman’s Bureau acted as social workers who helped newly freed slaves and whites find resources to get their lives back together on confiscated or abandoned lands. In the same way that members of the Freedman’s Bureau helped their fellow man or woman, you can do the same for your friends. When you hear of an opportunity, let your friend know. Tag them in a recruiter’s LinkedIn post, or send an opportunity to that coworker who may be looking for a way into another industry.
Finally, take time to celebrate yourself. Reflect on how far along your personal life path that you’ve come by eating barbeque food and drinking strawberry soda, which was born out of the celebration of Juneteenth. Even if you don’t have a grill, invite a few friends to get together and share stories and bond over personal accomplishments. Although you’ve all faced hardships, you are still pursuing that type of freedom where you can make your own choices in your career. Think of the liberation of Black people and the pursuit of freedom that they’ve worked hard for, your legacy of how you want to free people around you, and how you can continue to honor the ancestors who have lead the way for your freedom.
Kiara M.P. is a brand designer from Richmond, Virginia, specializing in copywriting and digital content. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going to concerts, visiting national parks and Yelping about her favorite restaurants.