Honoring Juneteenth

Reflections from the Executive Director

Sunday was Juneteenth, a federal holiday recognizing June 19, 1865 as the date enslaved people in Texas were declared free, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Because the date fell on a Sunday this year, many people found themselves with the day off from work on Monday, June 20.

To be honest, I have struggled with how to approach Juneteenth in a manner that respects and honors the holiday, given that I am a White woman. Saying “Happy Juneteenth” to the Black people in my life seems not quite the correct phrase (and certainly not to other White people); neither does taking the day off to relax and peruse online sales.

Late yesterday afternoon, I received an email from Jess Eckstrom, an entrepreneur that I don’t recall following, but must have subscribed to her newsletter at some point. She shared thoughts from Crystal Whiteaker, an inclusive branding expert active on social media. I don’t know either of them, but I really loved Crystal’s suggestions for ways that non-Black Americans can honor the Juneteenth holiday. I am sharing them in their entirety below, and they can be accessed from her Instagram link above.

"Here are some ways to honor Juneteenth...

For my fellow Black Americans, my only advice for you is to prioritize your joy and well-being. Do what feels good for your mind, body, and spirit.

Personally, this year, I have chosen to prioritize my time and energy for people and things that expand, nourish, or compensate me to honor my value of empowerment.

For non-Black Americans, here are some ways you can honor Juneteenth if you haven’t begun to already:

》Learn about the history of Juneteenth and its significance.

》Acknowledge where you have privilege and influence and how it can be used to honor and support Black Americans.

》Support Black owned businesses.

》Pay Black people for their labor. (Think sliding into the Venmo, PayPal, or CashApp accounts of Black creators and educators you regularly consume from on social media. Mine are in my bio.)

》Regularly invest your time in learning about true Black history, beyond glorified Black trauma porn.

》Finally, if you have the day off and plan to host or attend a BBQ or gathering of any kind, I encourage you to open up a discussion about the history of Juneteenth and the impact of systemic oppression on Black Americans. If this seems like too heavy of a topic to bring up at a gathering, I invite you to try to imagine what it’s like to live as a Black person in America, unable to pick and choose how you might be impacted by oppressive white supremacist systems."

Crystal Whiteaker

For my part, I engaged in several of her suggestions yesterday, including bringing up systems of oppression among a group of White friends and in a separate discussion, with my kids; and sending Venmo payments to Black people (including Crystal!) for their labor in educating me.

For our Black members, I hope you were able to enjoy a day of joy and celebration.

For our non-Black members, what did you do to recognize this day?

As SWHPN continues to work to dismantle systems of oppression within social work and healthcare, I hope and expect we’ll find additional ways as an organization to honor this holiday.

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