What Does Juneteenth Mean To You?

What Does Juneteenth Mean To You?

Many people think of Juneteenth as an African American holiday instead of simply an American one. Juneteenth – a federal holiday observed each year on June 19 – is a celebration of June 19, 1865, the day slavery was abolished in Texas, and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States.

The reality is that Juneteenth is a day that represents liberty, justice, and equality – all very American ideals. Because of this, it is important not just to understand what Juneteenth is truly about, but more importantly, what it means to you. 

For decades many Americans were unaware of what Juneteenth was and its legacies throughout American history. Generations of Americans of all races have little understanding that the abolition of slavery took years to reach every corner of the country. The holiday is so important because it is a celebration of June 19, 1865, the day slavery was abolished in Texas, and the full emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. While the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery was signed on January 1, 1863, many enslaved African Americans were kept in the dark about their hard-fought freedom for years. 

Michigan LCV Voting Rights Coordinator Roland Leggett smiling at the camera on a roof in Midtown, Detroit. He is a queer man of color wearing a suit.

Michigan LCV Voting Rights Coordinator Roland Leggett, who authored this blog article.

As a Black man living in America today, Juneteenth, for me, represents how far we have come as a country and how far we have yet to go. Racial inequality persists and touches every aspect of American life. From the justice system to the doctor’s office, African Americans are still not given the same level of respect and equality as others. We all have our part in turning the tide of this harsh reality, which is why Juneteenth is so personal to me.

As an organization, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV) makes racial justice and equity foundational to our mission, intersecting with every issue we address. Some of those issues include the climate crisis and environmental injustices, which highlight disparities in access to clean, safe drinking water, the impacts of toxic air pollution, and health complications. 

In addition to environmental injustices, purposeful barriers to voting rights for African Americans further demonstrate the urgent need for action. That is why programs like Democracy for All are vital tools in Michigan LCV’s democracy toolbox. Throughout our democracy and voting rights work, we strive – with a specific focus on reaching BIPOC communities – to ensure Michigan voters understand their rights and how they can be active participants in our democratic electoral system without fear of harassment or intimidation. 

Achieving true racial justice and equity for everyone in our country requires a collective effort and commitment. That is why it is so important that we all learn about Juneteenth, determine what it means for us, and take action to be part of the change we want to see around us. 

Volunteer for a phone bank shift educating voters about the climate crisis and environmental injustices. Offer to drive friends or neighbors who need assistance to the polls on Election Day. Better yet, encourage them to fill out an absentee ballot and then double-check to make sure they dropped it in the mail. The possibilities are endless. 

Check out Michigan LCV’s collection of Juneteenth events happening across Michigan to find an event or celebration in your area! 

While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed generations ago, it is up to all of us to honor the history and legacies of Juneteenth by fighting for the liberty, equality, and respect that everyone deserves. We hope you will join the Michigan LCV family in finding time and space to commemorate this day as part of our growing community.

Together, the Michigan LCV staff and board are committed to learning, growing, and changing as we collectively work towards creating a more just and equitable nation. Are you with us?

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