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Juneteenth, first recognized as a national holiday last year, celebrates June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to free the remaining slaves in the United States.
The holiday is a good opportunity to increase cultural awareness of the health disparities that still exist in racial and ethnic minority communities.
There are several ways to celebrate Juneteenth that highlight its cultural significance.
In 2021, the United States officially recognized America’s longest black holiday, Juneteenth. On June 17, President Joe Biden signed a bill, marking the day as a federal holiday.
Black communities across the country have celebrated June 19 for nearly 150 years. It has deep meaning and its traditions both honor previous generations and provide opportunities to raise awareness of the 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 Caregivers Resource Group about the importance of Juneteenth and its impact on caregivers and the community.
What is Juneteenth?
In school, you probably learned that President Abraham Lincoln freed slaves in the United States on January 1, 1863, with the Emancipation Proclamation. It may surprise you that slavery did not end that day.
Instead, he lingered for another two and a half years as the country went through civil war. Finally, on June 19, 1865, Federal troops marched on Galveston, Texas and shared the news of the end of the war and slavery, freeing the remaining 250,000 enslaved men and women. The following year, black communities marked their freedom with “Jubilee Day”.
What do the June 16 celebrations and symbols mean?
Now the day is known as Juneteenth. For decades, black communities have marked this milestone day with community celebrations.
“June 19 is a special time of year for my family and me. Long before it was a national holiday, most black Americans on Galveston Island and Texas celebrated by grilling food, drinking red soda, participating in parades and discussing current affairs. in the United States,” says Jones. “It’s 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. They are certainly festive elements of any gathering, but it’s the colors and symbols behind them that are significant.
During the 19e Century, cochineal, a red dye used to color food, was rare and black Americans used it occasionally 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 slavery. In these cultures, red signifies sacrifice, transition and power.
The red, white and blue flag of June 19 reflects the fact that even during slavery, black Americans were always Americans. Like red foods, the design of the flag is also symbolic. It wears a star that recognizes Texas’ role in emancipation. In addition, the star mirrors those of the American flag to remind that blacks are free in all states. The bursting around the star and its curved surface signifies new opportunities and possibilities before us.
Why is this important for caregivers?
Although Juneteenth is a day of remembrance and celebration in all black communities, it holds special significance for caregivers nationwide.
Currently, black doctors constitute only 5.4% of medical staff in the USA. While that number is growing, there hasn’t been much change since 1900, when just 1.3% of physicians were black. Since blacks represent 12.4% of current US populationthere is room for growth in the profession and for improving the health of black Americans.
Celebrating Juneteenth opens the door to conversations that enhance cultural awareness and draw attention to the important struggles that black communities still face, Jones says. By honoring those who have overcome past barriers, communities can address those that already exist, such as widespread health disparities. For instance, Black Americans have higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and HIV/AIDS.
For caregivers, Juneteenth can be a chance to reach people with limited access to care who can benefit from healthcare services. For example, Providence currently partners with the American Heart Association to reduce high blood pressure in black Americans and Stand Up 2 Cancer to improve colorectal cancer screening for racial and ethnic minority groups.
What is the Black Caregiver Resource Group and how do members celebrate this holiday?
Providence Caregivers are deeply committed to improving access to care and overall health in Black communities. Specifically, the Black Caregiver Resource Group (BCRG) is an employee-led volunteer group dedicated to showcasing the contributions and voices of Black caregivers in our community.
Together with the Providence Southern California Diversity Equity and Inclusion Council, he is deeply involved in raise 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, says Jones. Being part of the festivities is a great way to acknowledge the past as well as the ongoing needs and struggles of the black community.
“Compassion, justice and empathy come to mind when thinking about our shared history,” Jones says. “I invite everyone to consider ways to honor the past and ensure a just future.”
If you live in these places, consider these celebrations:
- Join the weekend get up celebration that includes a health fair, live music, seniors breakfast, live music, a show, fireworks and a parade.
- Join the party at Juneteenth at Delaney Parkincluding vendors, entertainment, a parade, contest, and live speakers all celebrating African American culture.
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
The Providence SoCal Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council (SoCal DEI) leads some of our efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to foster appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures to create a more welcoming, equitable and inclusive environment. We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, strengthening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.
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Related SoCal DEI Resources
This information is not intended to replace professional medical care. Always follow the instructions of your healthcare professional.