It was only last week at the Tech Section leadership call that I first learned about Juneteenth. Chair-elect Brandi Boatner explained the importance of June 19th in the American calendar to our Executive Board during our monthly call for June. Our Technology Section board and extended team has three Black women, and earlier in the call Brandi proposed we take the time to ask them how they were feeling after the weeks of protests following George Floyd’s murder.
“Exhausted,” they replied. Mentally and emotionally drained, after consoling their families, friends, and colleagues while processing the events themselves while also continuing to deal with the pandemic. In the middle of all that, Juneteenth started to make sense. Let us commemorate a victory against the disgusting plague of racism to remember that victory is possible as we fight now. How come I had never heard of Juneteenth before?
Well, I am an immigrant. In my journey to become American, I learned about Thanksgiving, and adopted it as a reminder to be grateful for what I have. I incorporated the Fourth of July as a reminder of what it takes to create a union of many different people. I celebrate Memorial and Labor as bookends to summer. And I celebrate all the other Holidays that are part of my children’s school calendar, our religious calendar, and even the shopping calendar.
I may not be your foremost American expert but as a communications professional I do know a thing or two about culture. I can tell there is a gap in my inculturation process, which leaves unexplained some important things about my adoptive country. Nobody likes to say these things out loud. Bringing them up makes people uncomfortable. I am supposed to know them even if nobody has explained them. Until last week, that is.
For those who may not know, Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, 1865 and is the oldest known US holiday ending slavery. On this day, the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that all African-American slaves in the state were free in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (which was issued two and half years before on January 1, 1863).
One of the first things I did after becoming an American citizen was to sign up to PRSA. I had a hazy idea to “network” in my city, where I had lived for ten years without really knowing anyone outside work. Five years in, PRSA has given me friends all over town, and across the country thanks to my work at the Tech Section. I don’t know if I’ll make PRSA a better organization (Care to help us? Volunteer!), but I already know that the PRSA has made me a better person.
So today as PRSA and the Technology Section continues to support the Black community I encourage you to learn about the Juneteenth holiday and its historic significance and further PRSA’s efforts and mission around diversity and inclusion.