Acknowledging Juneteenth

2023 marks the third year Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, is celebrated as a federal holiday

Sadie Clark, News Editor

Juneteenth, celebrated June 19, is an American holiday acknowledging the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. On June 19, 1865, Union troops announced to enslaved peoples in Galveston Bay, Texas that they had been emancipated. The day has been henceforth celebrated as Juneteenth or Freedom Day.

Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, established under President Joe Biden, and is the latest federal holiday created since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. The recognition of Juneteenth on a national level has been long awaited by celebrators nationally. Senior Shea Deskins, co-president of Black Student Union (BSU), commented on the relatively recent legislation recognizing Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth becoming a national holiday is something that’s been talked about for a while now. I think now that they’re making it a holiday, it’s definitely a good look for all black students … It’s been well deserved,” Deskins said.

There’s no specific way to celebrate June 19, but Malik Prince, advisor of BSU, notes a local option to garner more information around Junteenth.

“As of right now, [BSU is]  just promoting and celebrating the Northwest African American Museum,” Prince said. “They’re hosting a whole three day event down there, and [we’re] just trying to get the word out about that.”

Prince also said that the administration reached out to BSU with some information and resources on Juneteenth.

“People down from the main office have reached out and given us some cool information on slides and other media. Often just building connections like that through the community is really what they provided for us,” Prince said.

While BSU didn’t make a Ballard-specific plan for commemoration of this past Juneteenth, Deskins suggested that they may in the future.

“I think now that [Juneteenth] is a national holiday, BSU should probably do something along the lines of creating a protocol or a game plan as to how we want to celebrate next year,” Deskins said.

When asked about potential ideas for the commemoration of Juneteenth at Ballard, Deskins recommended similar strategies as were used for MLK day.

“We would show a few PowerPoints for the whole week based on black leaders, black ambassadors [and] business owners, so maybe something along the lines of showing different faces of who is most important in representing Juneteenth,” Deskins said.

Beyond the classroom, Juneteenth has significance that can be reflected upon individually. Prince mentioned the history of the holiday in the context of the abolition of slavery.

“The reason why the date is so significant is because of the fact that there were so many people that didn’t realize that slavery had ended,” Prince said. “It took almost two years after the abolishment of slavery before they were actually free.”

Juneteenth marks the two-years-late enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order from President Abraham Lincoln, declaring the freedom of slaves outside of Union control. Prince recommends information as the best way to acknowledge the holiday, as well as other cultural holidays.

“It’s just finding out history on your own and doing your own research instead of letting it be told to you,” Prince said. “It goes back to Columbus Day or Cinco Demayo. That’s not actually Mexico’s Independence Day, but people think it is. Having a thorough understanding of why you’re celebrating or why some people have a day off [is important].”

Prince hopes that, eventually, Juneteenth will be more widely celebrated in the future, including in the Ballard community.

“Juneteenth has been around for many years, but it’s still a relatively new celebration for the masses. The more people that start understanding or the more advertisement of said day will generate a school-wide celebration,” Prince said. “You want to get to a day like the fourth of July even though it may not never. We want to get to a celebration like Memorial Day.”

Student unions like BSU continue to help spread more information on cultural holidays to students, and leaders like Deskins continue to advocate for awareness within the school community. When asked if she had any final words as she graduated after this Juneteenth, Deskins advocated for community within Ballard.

“To BSU and all the other student unions, I hope that you guys continue to strive within each of your cultures’ power to bring a lot more awareness each year to the new students,” Deskins said.

This past Juneteenth marked another year of change in the United States, and Deskins leaves Ballard with the hope that the student body will continue to change with it.

“Each year, there should be an increased amount of awareness just so everyone here in the community can stay in the know, and just feel somewhat included,” Deskins said. “Even if students aren’t part of certain student unions and clubs, bringing that awareness to the entire school would definitely be the goal and something that I want to continue to see here at Ballard.”