Recognizing the Importance of Juneteenth
by Bruce Smith, YMCA of Greater Nashua and DIG Committee Member
The DIG (Diversity Inclusion Global) Committee at the Y was started as a group to ensure that the Y’s welcoming and inclusive culture is carried throughout our processes, hiring, facilities and programming. It’s important to us as an organization that we effectively serve everyone in our community and make sure that they feel welcome and are heard.
Below, Bruce Smith, a YMCA and DIG Committee member, speaks on the importance of Juneteenth both for the country and more specifically his family:
- Warrant Officer Junior Grade (WOJG, US Army) Andrew C Smith Sr was a veteran of WWII, and the Korean War. He was medically discharged after taking land mine shrapnel in his chest, his life having been saved by open heart surgery in the field, WOJG Smith’s family…this writer’s family, to be clear…annually commemorates his birthday, recognizing his role as a member of what Americans acknowledge as the “Greatest Generation”. That day, my father’s birthday, is June 19th.
- And while it may be a day which has special meaning to my family, it carries an even more significant meaning for African Americans historically. On that date, in 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with an official government proclamation which finally ended slavery in Texas. Although the Civil War had ended over two months earlier, and the Emancipation Proclamation had been delivered over two years earlier by President Lincoln, the General’s notification delivered a conclusive documented end to this dark chapter in the history of the United States. Also called Freedom Day, Liberation Day and Jubilee Day, this day, June 19th is affectionately referred to as Juneteenth.
- Because Texas was the most remote of the Confederate states it was one of the last to receive the official government notifications of the residuals of the war. And, although the government did not officially ratify the 13th Amendment until later in the year, this date is universally accepted as the official date of liberation of the slaves in America. There is congressional movement in place to establish June 19th, Juneteenth, as a national holiday in recognition of its significance.
- As a matter of celebration June 19th is indeed more than just one man’s birthday, particularly for the Smith family, among a flurry of patriotic holidays we as a nation observe during the spring/summer months such as Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Fourth of July. It is indeed a day of deliverance for African American heritage; a red-letter date for the true quest for freedom in our country. It’s a continuation of a promise to deliver on the statement in our country’s Declaration of Independence, which states that “All men are created equal.”
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