Juneteenth: Counting the Cost

Dear Eastern Community,

Today we celebrate Juneteenth, the oldest national commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. While President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was effective January 1, 1863, the news took time to travel. It wasn't until June 19, 1865, when the Union army brought word of the proclamation to Galveston, Texas, that the very last enslaved people learned of their freedom. 

Three years ago, on June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making it America’s newest official holiday. Juneteenth is also referred to as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, or Black 4th of July, and continues to be an annual reminder of the importance and cost of freedom. The United States of America’s economic wealth and growth as an industrial power was in part, built through the blood, sweat, and tears of slaves. That came at a cost well-documented by historians and social scientists.

On Juneteenth 2024, we reflect on the cost a slave economy had on the lives of many, setting the framework for us to continue the work to improve and create systems and communities characterized by equity, justice, and respect for the dignity of all humanity.

In 2020, Former President Barack Obama noted that “Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible - and there is still so much work to do.”

Today, we join with our African American brothers and sisters in celebrating Juneteenth. I invite you to join in prayer and reflect with me this year:

Loving God, we thank and praise you for the freedom that comes through your Spirit, for where your Spirit is, there is freedom. Thank you for the freedom over the presence and power of sin in our lives, made available through your Son. We celebrate wherever freedom reigns in every nation. We pray for peace and the end of war and violence across the world. 

On this Juneteenth, as we commemorate the freedom that came as a result of the end of slavery in the United States, help us to remember who we are and from where we have come. Help us to learn and grow from the sins of our past. Bless the descendants of slaves who have labored tirelessly in our nation’s history. Help us to remember your work in our lives. Help us be beacons of hope and healing to our children and the nations of the world. We celebrate your message of love, justice, freedom, peace, forgiveness, and grace. Hear our prayer on this day. Amen!

"From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people." Psalm 3:8

I encourage you to explore ways you can celebrate Juneteenth this year.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy Juneteenth!

Shalom! Shalom!

Randolph Walters, Psy.D, LPC, CCTP, CSAM
Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging
Professor, Counseling Psychology Department