Juneteenth – a time to reflect on and celebrate freedom

by Theresa Gibson, Program Management Office Manager
June 21, 2021

 Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, is an American holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. On June 19, 1865, almost two and a half years after implementing the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved African Americans were informed of their liberation from slavery. On that day, in Galveston, Texas, the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free. The reactions to this news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation.  From this event, an annual observance and celebration were born.

The name of the observance, Juneteenth, is an amalgamation of the month and the date: “June” and “nineteenth”.  As the years went on, the observance grew both in terms of relevance and meaning with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration is a time for reassuring each other, for praying, and for locating remaining family members. Juneteenth continues to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slave descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

This year marked an incredible milestone in history when President Biden signed a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

The LexisNexis Reed Tech African Ancestry Network celebrated the Juneteenth holiday by participating in several events across the LexisNexis and RELX organizations in the U.S., including hosting an organization-wide session on ‘Combatting Microaggressions in the workplace’. But, as we prepared for these celebrations, I had to stop and think about what the Juneteenth holiday really means to me personally.

Looking back on the defining moments of my career, and actually my life, many would not have existed without the Emancipation Proclamation.   For me, the Juneteenth celebration is a time to pause and reflect on the African Americans who came before me and to embrace and celebrate my freedom.   But with this reflection, I must still acknowledge that there is much work to be done to help folks understand that black lives matter as much as the lives of other races and nationalities.  While many will affirm this, their day to day conversations, actions, outward attitudes, and reactions to current events do not reflect this understanding.  Only with education, courageous conversations, & acknowledgment will this change.

With that being said, I am excited that Reed Tech has taken a stand against racism and has embraced the need for education and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives. I’m also excited that Reed Tech has established their 1st cultural value as Mutual Respect, Working Together Across Boundaries, and Being Inclusive of All.

Our leaders understand that our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion must be backed by action.  Within our organization some of the ways “action” has been demonstrated is with the establishment of several Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) such as the African Ancestry Network & the Women Connected groups.

I am hopeful that in addition to these action items there will be more dialog and reflection as it relates to D&I improvement strategies, understanding and combating microaggressions, & allyship strategies within our organization.

This Juneteenth I humbly call on my colleagues and friends to pause and consider reframing, (or perhaps reinforcing), your definition of ‘equal’ as we continue on this journey of ensuring Diversity & Inclusion.