A Reflection on Juneteenth and the Ongoing Journey to Freedom


by Alonda Williams, President & CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound

Today is a special day, a day that gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect, and honor Juneteenth, a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. As we celebrate this day, I would like to share a personal story and encourage all of us to deepen our understanding of Juneteenth.

Growing up as a young Black woman in New Jersey, my educational experience was one that unfortunately omitted significant aspects of African American history. I did not learn about Juneteenth in my formative years, and I imagine that some of you reading this may have shared a similar experience.

As you know, the Fourth of July is celebrated as the day of America’s independence. However, for me and many others, the story is more complex. While the United States declared its independence in 1776, my ancestors were still enslaved. This reality has often led me to feel somewhat excluded from the sense of freedom and liberty that the Fourth of July is meant to represent.

It wasn’t until I attended college that I learned about Juneteenth, and it floored me. Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, commemorates the day in 1865 when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were informed that they were free – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. This day marked the end of a dark chapter and the beginning of a long and ongoing journey towards true freedom and equality for African Americans.

Regrettably, the omission of significant aspects of history from educational curricula is not merely a relic of the past. Recent book bans and educational restrictions in several states threaten to perpetuate a cycle of ignorance and misunderstanding. As we pause today to acknowledge the importance of Juneteenth, let it also be a call to action for all of us. It is imperative that we actively fight for education, justice, and truth. We must advocate for comprehensive and inclusive education that does not shy away from the uncomfortable truths of our history. The narratives of all peoples, in their pain and triumph, are indispensable threads in the tapestry of our nation. May we continuously support efforts to ensure that education is a beacon of light that illuminates the entirety of our collective heritage.

As the leader of this great organization, I recognize that we are a part of a community, a community that thrives when it is inclusive and acknowledges the diverse histories that have shaped our nation. Today, I ask each of you to take time to learn more about Juneteenth. Reflect on the historical significance of this day, and sit with any discomfort it might bring, as it is in discomfort that we often find growth.

Consider why it took until recently for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday, and think about what it means for our society as a whole. Let us honor those who fought tirelessly for freedom, and let’s continue to educate ourselves and others on the full spectrum of American history.

We have an opportunity to be the change we wish to see in our communities. By appreciating and honoring days like Juneteenth, we pave the way for a more inclusive and empathetic society. Let us be mindful and supportive of one another, as we collectively strive for a world that is just and equitable for all.

Here are some great resources to learn more about Juneteenth:

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture  Juneteenth History

Associate Press Beginner’s Guide to Celebrating Juneteenth



Wishing you a reflective and educational Juneteenth.

In Community,





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