What is Juneteenth? (And Why It Matters.)
By Morgen Monie
Thirty two thousand four hundred eighty five. That’s the number of days between the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the events of Juneteenth in 1865—days that many Black Americans continued to have even their most fundamental human rights denied. Say that number again: 32,485 days. That’s close to 90 years of oppression and refusal of basic freedoms—and even though we've witnessed many victories in the fight for Black equality in the days since 1865, we have a long way to go in the fight to advocate for Black American lives.
Every July 4th, along with many workers in the United States, hundreds of Mindbody employees take the day off to celebrate Independence Day. Family and friends deck themselves out in their finest patriotic apparel and gather together to picnic, attend parades, and barbeque—celebrating our freedom and independence as a nation. Many aren’t aware that when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, not everyone in America received the same freedom. Enslaved Black Americans gained neither their independence nor any of the same rights as white Americans—and would have to wait nearly 90 years to be granted even the basic dignity of human freedom.
On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas were finally informed that all who had been enslaved were now free—a message of emancipation the rest of the country had received years earlier. During this time in history, the masters of the household controlled what information was shared (and with whom). Many chose to leave out the fact that two years prior, President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, formally abolishing slavery in America—only to be ignored by the state of Texas. It took two more years and the end of the Civil War for news of emancipation to reach the town of Galveston, Texas.
From then on, Juneteenth (often referred to as “Freedom Day”) has become a nationally recognized holiday. If you live in Texas or a surrounding state, it may be common to celebrate this day, just as you would the 4th of July. But in the rest of the country, many Americans not only don’t celebrate it but are often unaware of its significance.
In 2012, actor and comedian Chris Rock tweeted, “Happy white people’s independence day. The slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.” His comment speaks to the painful disconnect that still exists for many Black Americans between the storied tradition of American “freedom” and the painful lived realities of their own ancestors. It highlights the need for all Americans to understand the history of the Black community—especially now, as people from all backgrounds are rising to fight for the true and unequivocal equality of Black Americans.
As Mindbody continues to listen, learn, and drive action that combats racism and seeks an end to the inequality of Black lives, we'll recognize and celebrate Juneteenth as a community. This Juneteenth, Mindbody will pay tribute to the significance of the date and to the Black lives—past and present—impacted by the deep-rooted injustice and inequality built into the social constructs of our country. Dr. Bryan Hubain, who holds a PhD in Philosophy and has completed years of work and research in diversity and inclusion, will bring together the entire Mindbody team for a meaningful opportunity to listen and learn. The voices of Black team members will be amplified as they take the stage to share their personal stories and encounters with racism, reflecting the common experience of the non-white person in today’s America.
Use this day as a chance to educate yourself on Juneteenth and the larger history and experience of Black lives in America over the last 250 years. Reflect not just on those 32,485 days of freedom deferred, but also on every day since Juneteenth that’s seen the continued perpetuation of inequality for all Black Americans. We will look back to learn and look inside ourselves to grow; but then we must look ahead to a future that finally fulfills our country’s promise of true equality—a promise long overdue.