Staff Reflections: Juneteenth

Staff Reflections: Juneteenth

From  Nick González, Associate Pastor:

Did you know that today is a significant day in our nation’s history? If I’m being honest with you, up until about 2 weeks ago, my answer to that question would have been no. And while I’m not proud to admit that I had never heard of this day, I am thankful that it was brought to my attention. Over the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to educate myself and learn about a day that calls for reflection and serves as a good reminder that we still have a lot of work to do, both as a country and as individuals. So, if you look at today’s date on your calendar, or phone, or Apple Watch, you’ll see that it is June 19th. But June 19th is not just your average day. In fact, it is more commonly known as, “Juneteenth” or “Emancipation Day” or “Black Independence Day”.

On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, a historic proclamation was made, that those who were enslaved were free. This came more than two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, meaning even though technically the 250,000 people enslaved in Texas were already free—none of them were aware of it. So Juneteenth is a day worthy of celebration and great joy as it marks the ending of slavery in the United States.

Now over the past few weeks I’ve learned that there are 45 states that commemorate this day and many communities continue to celebrate it with parades and gatherings. But what was more striking and perhaps convicting to me is the fact that I’d never heard of it. And this feels like something I would’ve remembered from my high school history classes, or at least something I should have remembered. But like I said, if you’d asked me two weeks ago, I’d have told you I’d never even heard of “Juneteenth.”

While I do feel a little guilty for not knowing, I also know that it’s not my guilt that has driven my desire to learn more about this day. Rather, it’s the love I have for my neighbor, in this case my African American neighbors, that is causing me to want to learn more. And this love is not my own, but it’s the love that Jesus has for me and calls on me as His follower to show to others. As Jesus says in John 13:34b, “Love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

And so one of the ways I have been able to love my neighbor, is to educate myself. If you think about it, that is how we show love to one another in the context of any relationship. We take the time to ask questions and we listen with hearts that desire to understand and we learn about one another.

By learning about Juneteenth, I’ve come to realize how significant this day is and also, that I still have a lot more listening and learning to do. As for today, I will give thanks to God for this day and celebrate the freedom that so many experienced for the first time on this day so long ago! And each day, I’ll continue to listen, and learn, so that I can better love my neighbor. And I hope you’ll do the same. – Pastor G.