On Juneteenth, or Freedom Day as it is also known, people across the country celebrate the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans who were given intentional late notice of the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth marks a time for celebration and most recently, reflection. With the rise of legislative and political attacks on DEI programs that largely impact Black and historically marginalized communities of color, celebrating Juneteenth, and continuing to center Black joy, provides communities with a tactic in navigating against the growing tide of oppressive legislation.
Below, members of APCO’s Black and African Ancestry Movement (BAAM) ERG reflect on why celebrating the holiday is important given today’s political climate, along with identifying how they have traditionally celebrated Juneteenth in the past.
“I feel that celebrating Juneteenth is even more special now because there have been so many pointed attacks on overall Black joy and progress. From the political ones that have been seeking to dismantle affirmative action across industries, to the educational ones that are literally removing Black history from schools, textbooks, and curriculums, it seems like every attempt possible is being made to stifle Black voices and contributions. Celebrating Juneteenth is a way to resist these attacks. We celebrate to honor the lives and accomplishments of our ancestors and proudly exude joy in a world that would otherwise want us to remain in sorrow.” – Tyler Blackburn, associate director, Corporate Communications
“I was in grade school when I experienced my first Juneteenth celebration. At the time, I had never heard of Juneteenth and knew little about African culture, outside of my own. It was Juneteenth that exposed me to the diversity of cultures across the African diaspora and every Juneteenth I look for opportunities to celebrate the beauty of our culture that has persisted despite our collective trauma.” – Randi Towns, senior associate director, Health Care
“Amongst countless efforts to erase and discount Black history today, the acknowledgement of Juneteenth sheds light on an objective truth. Juneteenth acknowledges that there are two, separate Independence Days in this country with different implications. Celebrating Juneteenth is pertinent today because it is a necessary admittance of our flaws as a country, but also recognizing that we are on the path forward. Moving forward begins with acknowledging what has been done, even when it’s ugly.” – Kennedy Parkins, associate consultant, Equity and Justice
“Celebrating Juneteenth is crucial now, given the state of our country, because it solidifies a place for liberation to continue to be celebrated for all people and not a limited group. We must always strive to recognize and honor the contributions of everyone, regardless of their background or identity. Only when you acknowledge everyone are you truly aware; anything outside of that is willful ignorance.” – Kamila Green, project assistant, APCO+
“I consider Juneteenth an extraordinary time in American history commemorating African American freedom and highlighting education and accomplishment. I’m pleased to see how far it’s grown in popularity as the Black diaspora adopted the day to recognize emancipation (even before it became a national holiday). Each year, to celebrate Juneteenth, I use the day to reflect on how far we’ve come as Black people, to think of those who sacrificed for us and the vibrancy of our culture – from the food, music, and style to our different idioms and resilience. It’s also a reminder that our history is important: we must remember that while progress has been made, we are still fighting for equal rights, protection, and complete humanity.” – Terry Lewis, senior consultant, Corporate Communications
“I celebrate Juneteenth by teaching my kids about the holiday. At their age I didn’t celebrate it because I was never taught about it. As the education system continues to fail our children with history lessons that are essential to their growth and development, I have made it my responsibility to “fill in the gaps.” – Taryn Laster-Whitehead, senior associate director, Equity and Justice
“Frederick Douglass once posed the question, ‘What to the Slave is the 4th of July?’ So, to me, Juneteenth signifies the Black American equivalent of the 4th of July. It is a day that celebrates freedom and emancipation from the abhorrent shackles of a barbaric system that, for centuries, inflicted torture, sale, humiliation, exploitation, and oppression upon Black bodies. Juneteenth is a momentous moment in history that merits commemoration, particularly in a world where race relations still bear the weight of despair. In these challenging times, it becomes vital for us to cherish moments of celebration and seize opportunities for reflection on the remarkable progress we have achieved, while acknowledging the work that’s still to be done.” – Alexandra Lawrence, associate consultant, Corporate Communications
“Juneteenth has always been a celebration of the resilience of our community, a resilience that continues to be necessary in today’s environment. We exist in a constant duality that is even more stark today. On one hand, there is beautiful allyship and work being done by so many to build a culture where diversity and Blackness is celebrated. On another hand, we’re in a state of being constantly barraged by news of legislation, lawsuits, and individual actions that are a direct attack on our lives, livelihood, and access to opportunity. In the midst of this, finding time to amplify and celebrate Black culture is like collective therapy.” – Elle Arlook, senior director, Equity and Justice Practice Lead
“Growing up, I had never heard of Juneteenth and when I learned about the holiday a few a years ago I couldn’t help wonder why that was. A holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people feels just as significant as any other major American holiday, given the countless contributions our ancestors have made to this country despite being treated as second class citizens. I’m glad Juneteenth is finally getting the recognition it deserves and I hope more people take the time to learn why this day is cause for celebration.” – Nia Perkovich, senior consultant, Corporate Communications
“Despite the progress made towards racial equality since the end of slavery, systemic racism and discrimination still exist in various aspects of American society. Recent events have brought renewed attention to issues of racial inequality and highlighted the need for continued education, awareness, and action to address these issues. Celebrating Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight for equality and justice, and the progress that has been made towards these goals. It also serves as an opportunity to reflect on the continued struggles faced by Black people and to recognize our contributions to American society. By celebrating Juneteenth, we can further educate ourselves and others on the importance of Black history and its impact on our nation’s present and future.” – Bianca Ngala, associate consultant, Health Care
“Juneteenth has always been a vibrant celebration for Black Americans to take great pride in. It grounds us in our history but also gives us reason to celebrate the resilience of our community. Even under the systemic challenges that we still face, Juneteenth is an important reminder that Black joy matters. We boldly uplift our culture and community, continuing to shine our light, regardless of others who try to dim it. In my family, celebrating Juneteenth has always been about great food and great company. Though it doesn’t look the same every year, the real focus is creating new memories with loved ones and remembering the powerful legacy of our ancestors.” – Danielle Calhoun, senior associate director, Equity and Justice