Juneteenth for All

Juneteenth is a valuable time for any American to kick back and enjoy the company of friends, family, and strangers, as well as appreciate our shared history and hard-won freedoms. Finally established as a federal holiday in 2021, the legacy of Juneteenth celebrations dates back to June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, where news of the Emancipation Proclamation and its effects were announced to the enslaved people months after the end of the American Civil War. 

It’s a celebration, however, that does not see as universal embrace as other holidays, despite its grounding in a victory for American values such as freedom and egalitarianism. A quick search of events happening this year for Juneteenth in my hometown of Valparaiso, a Hoosier town with more than 34,000 people, reveals the local paper only directing people to celebrate with the city of Hammond, some 40 minutes away. Growing up in Valparaiso, I had hardly heard of Juneteenth outside of passing conversation; this makes sense, considering the 2020 census listed the town’s demographics as roughly 80% white-identifying. Still, this begs the question: why is the observation of the now-federal holiday still so limited? What keeps the majority white population of Valparaiso from recognizing the value of the history that the June 19th holiday celebrates? 

With the ARCC this Juneteenth, I hope that we can provide outreach and better inform the world around us of the value of celebrating together for victories of dignity and equality over prejudice and ignorance.