I am a Black woman. I was raised by educated, woke, Afrocentric parents. I attended a historically Black university. And though I am Black through and through, I have never observed or celebrated Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Over the past week I have read countless stories of corporations and organizations contemplating how they will observe Juneteenth. My initial reaction? This is ridiculous! In isolation, if an organization’s response to systemic racism and civil unrest is to take a day off in the name of Juneteenth, that action is next to meaningless.

Yet as I have reflected on this, I started to think about my own experience with Juneteenth.  Why, with all of the opportunities I had in my formative years, in college, and in my adult life, have I not intentionally observed the significance of this day?

Why, with all of the opportunities I had in my formative years, in college, and in my adult life, have I not intentionally observed the significance of this day?

I really don’t know! But I do know that this year feels different than any other period of time in my entire life. Perhaps sheltering in place has forced me to focus or maybe it’s the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks that are compelling me to live with greater purpose; igniting a desire to be more self-aware, more connected to my history, and to ensure that my 8 year old daughter is proud of her heritage and knows the significance of June 19.

So this year, we are starting a new family tradition of honoring Juneteenth. We are looking forward to finding our own way to celebrate. I have been perusing some heirloom family cookbooks and thinking about how to infuse joy into our socially distant celebration.

What are you doing for Juneteenth? We’d love to hear about your favorite family traditions – or new traditions – to honor this important day in American history.

Having served in leadership capacities for several profit and non-profit organizations, Leslie Gill has been deeply involved in a wide range of social welfare issues. Before joining Rung as the organization’s executive director, Leslie Gill served as the Chief Executive Officer of Annie Malone Children’s & Family Service Center. Read more about Leslie here.
Leslie Gill

President, Rung for Women