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Juneteenth: A personal reflection

Juneteenth is a significant holiday in the African American community. Until recently, many would consider it esoteric seemingly, now that it is recognized in nearly all 50 states. However, despite more states jumping on board to observe Juneteenth every year, it is still not observed as a national holiday. In light of the current social unrest, the case for making Juneteenth a national holiday is stronger than ever. 

Cory Barnes
Cory Barnes, coordinator for the Black Cultural Center.

Growing up, I was unaware of this monumental holiday. Juneteenth was not celebrated or discussed in my schooling, it was not a part of our curriculum, and it most certainly was not lauded in the same way as Independence Day. I would learn that some African Americans did not celebrate the holiday for a period of time because of the embarrassment, shame, and anguish that it represented—chattel slavery. Celebrating Juneteenth requires acknowledgment of the nation's ugly past. And for many, reconciling the dark history of chattel slavery in America has been challenging and delayed for far too long, until now.

The year 2020 has been a year of reckoning and awakening, seeing swift action and reform taking place against the injustices that have existed in the Black community for far too long.  The push to make Juneteenth a national holiday is no exception. Juneteenth represents heritage and Black pride, and it should not be something to shy away from; it is to be celebrated. As the oldest holiday celebrated by African Americans, my hope is that Juneteenth also will be observed as a national holiday, but until then, I will continue to celebrate locally with my community. 

Cory Barnes is the coordinator for DePaul's Black Cultural Center in the Office of Multicultural Student Success. In his role, he is the primary resource for information, referrals and advocacy to address the needs of all, while directly supporting Black students.