By Monica Lee Copeland | June 18, 2021, 5:52 p.m.
This Saturday is Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, has been a tradition in the United States since 1865. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African-Americans in the city of Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of their freedom, almost two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
I am a descendent of enslaved Americans through my mother, Mary. Her father, my grandfather, Lowerenda (Low) Spearman, was a sharecropper who migrated to the north with millions of others in the 1940s. Grandpa Low and his five siblings were descendants of Low's great-great-grandmother, Kizzie Bozic-Mitchell, who was enslaved. Grandpa Low married my Grandma Mattie Simmons, who owned a pig farm with fig and pecan trees in Enterprise, Alabama, but had to leave her land behind for the opportunity to live freely. But as most African Americans have always known, and many of you know now, our history of enslaving people is still present and is exceedingly hard to escape.
On the eve of Juneteenth, a day that celebrates African American freedom and achievements, I cannot help but think of Low and Mattie. My grandparents' story is one of striving, despite racial injustice faced, and like so many other African American families' stories. We strive to be safe from police brutality and violence associated with race hatred. We strive to earn equal pay for our labor and for our children to achieve higher education. We strive for fair elections and the freedom to make our voices heard. And yes, we strive for health equity.
So, as Juneteenth takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, I know that in many tangible ways the fight for equity in the lives of African Americans and so many other citizens continues. And at the same time, I am elated that the contributions, humanity, and beauty of black Americans are being celebrated. At Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley (PPPSGV), we’re committed to renewing our organizations commitment to confronting racism — specifically anti-Black racism — within the health care system and throughout our nation.
I'm proud to share actions you can take with me to support the celebration of Juneteenth:
Attend a Local Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration The San Gabriel Valley African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Community Action Team is hosting a Juneteenth celebration at Loma Alta Park in Altadena. Click here to register for the event!
Support Local Black-Owned Restaurants We've compiled a list of some local Black-owned restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley.
Further Your Learning on JuneteenthMake sure to check out these Black-owned independent bookstores across the country and online
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture shares the historical legacy of Juneteenth.
- NYT Article So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth?
- "Freedom's Gifts: a Juneteenth story" by Valerie Wesley
- "Let's Celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth" by Barbara DeRubertis
- "Juneteenth" by Ralph Ellison
- "On Juneteenth" by Annette Gordon-Reed
Monica Lee Copeland
PPPSGV Chief Development Officer