The Importance of Juneteenth

[5 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • Juneteenth, first recognized as a national holiday last year, celebrates June 19, 1865, the date when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to free the remaining enslaved people in the United States.

  • The holiday is a good opportunity to increase cultural awareness around health disparities that still exist in racial and ethnic minority communities.

  • There are multiple ways to celebrate Juneteenth that highlight its cultural importance.

In 2021, the United States officially recognized the longest-running Black American holiday, Juneteenth. On June 17, President Joe Biden signed a bill, marking the day as a federal holiday.

Black communities nationwide have celebrated Juneteenth for nearly 150 years. It has a deep meaning and its traditions both honor previous generations and present opportunities to raise awareness around struggles that still exist for Black Americans, especially health disparities.

We recently spoke with Pernell Jones, executive director of strategic development for Providence and a member of the Southern California (SoCal) Black Caregiver Resource Group about the importance of Juneteenth and its impact on caregivers and the community.

What is Juneteenth?

In school, you likely learned that President Abraham Lincoln freed enslaved people in the United States on Jan. 1, 1863, with the Emancipation Proclamation. It may surprise you that slavery didn’t end that day.

Instead, it lingered for an additional two-and-a-half years as the country struggled through the Civil War. Finally, on June 19, 1865, federal troops marched into Galveston, Texas, and shared the news of the end to both the war and slavery, freeing the remaining 250,000 enslaved men and women. The next year, Black communities marked their freedom with “Jubilee Day.”

What do Juneteenth celebrations and symbols mean?

Now, the day is known as Juneteenth. For decades, Black communities have marked this pivotal day with community celebrations.

“Juneteenth is a special time of year for my family and me. Long before it was a national holiday, most Black Americans from Galveston Island and around Texas would celebrate by grilling food, drinking red soda, participating in parades and discussing current events in the United States, ”Jones says.“ It is a rich tradition to honor those who came before us and to build community among family and friends. ”

Most celebrations include a wide variety of mostly red foods and a flag. These are certainly festive components to any gathering, but it’s the colors and symbols behind them that are meaningful.

During the 19th Century, cochineal, a red dye used for food coloring, was rare, and Black Americans would occasionally use it for celebrations. But the color red is also linked to the Yoruba and Kongo tribes, two African groups that were heavily trafficked through Texas as part of enslavement. In these cultures, red signifies sacrifice, transition and power.

The Juneteenth red, white and blue flag reflects that, even during enslavement, Black Americans have always been Americans. Like the red foods, the flag’s design is also symbolic. It bears a star that acknowledges the role Texas played in emancipation. Additionally, the star mirrors those from the US flag as a reminder that Black people are free in every state. Both the burst around the star and its curved surface signify new opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead.

Why is it important to caregivers?

Although Juneteenth is a day of remembrance and celebration throughout all Black communities, it does carry special significance for caregivers nationwide.

Currently, Black physicians make up only 5.4% of the physician workforce in the United States. While that number is increasing, there hasn’t been much change since 1900 when only 1.3% of doctors were Black. Given that Blacks account for 12.4% of the current US population, there’s room for growth in the profession and for improvement in health for Black Americans.

Celebrating Juneteenth opens the door for conversations that improve cultural awareness and calls attention to important struggles that Black communities still face, Jones says. By honoring those who overcame past obstacles, communities can address existing ones, such as widespread health disparities. For example, Black Americans have higher risks for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and HIV / AIDS.

For example, Providence is currently partnering with the American Heart Association to reduce high blood pressure among Black Americans and Stand Up 2 Cancer. For example, Providence is currently partnering with the American Heart Association to reduce high blood pressure among Black Americans and Stand Up 2 Cancer. to improve colorectal cancer screenings for racial and ethnic minority groups.

What is the Black Caregiver Resource Group, and how do the members celebrate this holiday?

Caregivers at Providence are deeply committed to improving access to care and overall health in Black communities. Specifically, the Black Caregiver Resource Group (BCRG) is a volunteer, employee-led group dedicated to highlighting the contributions and voices of Black caregivers in our community.

Together with the Providence Southern California Diversity Equity and Inclusion Council, it’s deeply involved in spreading awareness of Juneteenth and its cultural impact.

How can you celebrate Juneteenth?

Celebrating Juneteenth can be done in many ways – and you can find an event in your area, Jones says. Being part of the festivities is a great way to acknowledge the past as well as the Black community’s ongoing needs and struggles.

“Compassion, justice and empathy come to mind when thinking about our shared history,” Jones says. “I invite everyone to think about ways in which we can honor the past and ensure a just future.”

If you live in these locations, consider these celebrations:

Southern California:

Northern California:

Oregon:

Texas:

  • Join in the Rise Up Weekend celebration that includes a health fair, live music, senior breakfast, live music, pageant, fireworks, and parade.

Montana:

Alaska:

  • Join in the fun at Juneteenth in Delaney Park, including vendors, entertainment, a parade, a pageant, and live speakers all celebrating African American culture.

New Mexico:

Are you looking to celebrate in a socially distanced way? You can visit these sites to learn more about Juneteenth and Black history:

A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Providence SoCal Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council (SoCal DEI) is leading some of our efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to help build appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures as a way to create a We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, thus deepening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.

Find a doctor

If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services.

Download the Providence app

We’re with you, wherever you are. Make Providence’s app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records, and more. Learn more and download the app.

Related SoCal DEI resources

Honoring Black History Month

Celebrating Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Food for the soul: Collard Greens

Food for the soul: Native American recipes

One woman’s story: Staying grounded, resilient in adversity

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

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