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Why the history of Juneteenth is important—and how it will be recognized by many this year

This year marks an exciting time in our history— Congress passed the Juneteenth Independence Day Act.

Why the history of Juneteenth is important—and how it will be recognized by many this year
people standing on road during daytime
Photo by Leslie Cross on Unsplash

Tova Randolph, World Animal Protection

In America, Independence Day is celebrated as a national holiday on July 4. The first Independence Day was officially organized in Philadelphia, PA on July 4, 1777.

However, the road for all Americans was not easily celebrated, especially for African Americans. January 1, 1863, known as Freedom's Eve, was the initial start of freedom for enslaved people, but not all were considered legally free!

Although watch services were held in churches with the great news of The Emancipation Proclamation, there were still states in the former confederacy such as Texas that upheld the enslavement of Black people.

It was on June 19, 1865, when we were truly emancipated, and that day is now known as Juneteenth/African American Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.

This year marks an exciting time in our history— Congress passed the Juneteenth Independence Day Act. Juneteenth will serve as the nation's 12th federal holiday following the addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Juneteenth has a profound and much deeper meaning for me than many of my colleagues. I will admit working for an animal welfare organization was a change for me. I did not see many faces that mirrored my own.

Over the past year, we've faced many obstacles in the fight to end systematic racism, pandemic fatigue, police brutality, and just overall fear.

As I write this, I'm awash with emotion.

Although having a day off to celebrate Juneteenth is a start, it is not enough. However, I am encouraged by World Animal Protection's support as we pay homage to freedom and justice for all. Our organization has committed itself to dive deep into the hard and uncomfortable conversations surrounding diversity and inclusivity.

In these conversations and learnings, we begin to shed the layers of our own unconscious biases. We are fully committed to helping to end systemic racism and create equal opportunities for the disenfranchised.

This is how we can help create better lives for animals—by building a team of better people!

We are committed to raising awareness on Black Farmers who help propel our work against factory farming and producing high-welfare meat. We're committed to opening the door to our Black vegan and vegetarian communities for cross-collaboration.

You can donate to Black Farmers Fund where they are committed to creating a more equitable food system.

This Juneteenth, celebrate with us as it is also Black American Music Month. Maybe peruse a record store (for those of us who still frequent ) or visit a streaming service and listen to the sounds of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, or whomever you like.

This Juneteenth, we also recognize our Black LGBT+ community as June is Pride Month. Please take a moment to think about how we can shine a light on the undervalued, underserved, and often abused members of that community.

How will I celebrate Juneteenth? I plan to visit a couple of museums like The Bedford Stuyvesant Museum of African Art and The Africa Center in Manhattan and take in all its glory, lessons, and reflect on the freedom of my ancestors and break bread with my family. I leave you with the words of my grandmother who believes in educating oneself.

To say can't is a woe to ambition. You can always achieve!

It is our hope you will continue to support our work and celebrate the people behind the scenes who make it all come together as we will respect one another's differences.

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