Juneteenth holiday is a ‘step towards reconciliation and healing’
LCS Northwest will join the party to right a historical wrong this year with the first-time observance of Juneteenth, a long-neglected holiday that recognizes the true emancipation of enslaved people in America. Juneteenth commemorates the date that the last people who endured chattel slavery finally learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865. Because that date falls on a Sunday in 2022, the agency will observe it on Monday, June 20.
Think of it as a chance to stretch Juneteenth into a two-day jubilee, or even a three-day weekend celebration.
The decision to provide a paid day off for Juneteenth, first announced by President and CEO David Duea last June, became official with the release of the agency’s 2022 holiday calendar. It signifies that LCSNW will follow through on principles of diversity, equity and inclusion with action, not just words. It’s also consistent with new, bipartisan laws in the three states where the agency operates; the governors of Washington, Oregon and Idaho all signed bills in 2021 to set aside Juneteenth as a state holiday.
For LCSNW employees, the number of paid holidays grows from 10 to 11 per year.
Juneteenth honors a date that many Black Americans cherish as Independence Day – when a Civil War Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the wonderful news that had been withheld from enslaved people there. In one of our country’s great historic shames, word that slavery was abolished didn’t reach the barrier island until two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered and nearly two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Then came a delay of more than 150 years before most of the US commemorated Juneteenth, or even knew what it was. Tacoma area legislator Melanie Morgan, who sponsored Washington’s Juneteenth law, summed it up last February when her bill passed the state House: “Today, we took a step towards reconciliation and healing by acknowledging Black pain and Black trauma. African Americans deserve to have their history remembered.”
This is certainly true. One small adjustment to the holiday calendar, with any luck, will lead to a giant leap in our nation’s racial reckoning – and our agency’s mission of health, justice and hope.