Juneteenth, the combination of June and nineteenth, is a holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. It was on that date in 1865 that news finally reached Texas, following the Civil War, that slaves were free under the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. But that doesn’t mean slavery ended on that day. Our employees share their thoughts about the importance of Juneteenth and more, why we should all celebrate and more.

LoRita Baker, people strategy consultant at Consumers Energy celebrates Juneteenth with her family and friends, attending a parade and having a cookout. She believes it’s important to educate our youth about the importance of the holiday. “Juneteenth means emancipation and empowerment,” Baker said. “Emancipation from a system that believed that African American people were property and not human. Juneteenth represents empowerment for African American people to have the freedom to imagine and ignite the possibilities of their faith, fortitude and future.”

Baker believes everyone can benefit from celebrating Juneteenth, “Other races and nationalities should join Juneteenth celebrations as it gives them a better understanding of the African American heritage.” She also believes it would show unity across all people in our country.

When it comes to misconceptions Baker believes the biggest misconception around Juneteenth is that it should not be a recognized national holiday.

Guy Miller, sourcing manager at Consumers Energy celebrates Juneteenth by taking his family to a local festival where black history is remembered. While he does take time to celebrate the progress, he recognizes there is still work to do. “Juneteenth is a reminder to me that as black people we still have a long way to go in our fight for equality in America,” he said.

Miller understands that not everyone may celebrate the holiday but he thinks it’s important to acknowledge it. “I do think that others should acknowledge the holiday and its importance to black people,” he said.

He believes that many misconceptions exist about Juneteenth. “One misconception is that we are looking for another holiday. But the most egregious misconception is that it never happened the way it did!”

Rosa Jones, sr. software engineer at Consumers Energy believes Juneteenth represents positive change and another chance at life. “Juneteenth represents the public declaration that slavery has ended, which is a significant part of American history,” she said.

While Jones doesn’t typically participate in any Juneteenth events, she believes it is good to celebrate the holiday. “As a people we should all want to celebrate the freedom that we have from slavery,” she said. “The celebration is a reminder of where we were but should also give us hope of a better and brighter future.”

Jones believes the biggest misconception about Juneteenth is that everyone recognized and accepted the freedom from slavery. “While slavery had ended, some plantation owners decided to delay informing some of the slaves that they were free,” she said.

 

Ivory Qualls, scrum master at Consumers Energy said Juneteenth isn’t just about celebrating freedom, it’s a celebration of life. Juneteenth is a celebration of life, not just a celebration of freedom.

“Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 stating all persons held as slaves would be free, and it was in 1865 was when U.S. Constitution abolished slavery in the nations,” she said. “However, blacks weren’t aware of their freedom until years later. I feel we should celebrate this day because it is the date blacks truly felt slaves were made to be free. It was this time when slaves felt they could have control of their own lives. To know you are free, your life takes on a whole new meaning and purpose to help yourself and others and we should celebrate in that freedom as a new way of living.”

Qualls celebrates Juneteenth by participating in celebrations organized by the NAACP and Urban League of Battle Creek. “The celebrations take place at a local park, Claude Evans Park. The park was named after the first black dentist from Battle Creek and graduate of U of M (Dr. Claude Evans-deceased),” she said.

Regardless of ethnicity, background or race Qualls believes it’s important for everyone to celebrate Juneteenth. “We are all still of the same human race,” she said. It was unfortunate that black people were enslaved, but by participating in the celebration we can all begin to heal from our past.  We may not have been a part of that past, but we can continue to be part of a positive future by acknowledging and celebrating the dates that made “our” history. Not just black history, but American history. It’s an opportunity to educate people about the historical and ongoing challenges related to racial inequalities and hopefully move toward a more inclusive and just society.”

Qualls thinks there are a couple misconceptions about Juneteenth. First, “That it is a celebration for ‘black folks’. It is a celebration for all folks,” she said. “Also, some feel like by celebrating days like Juneteenth it is promoting reverse-discrimination or leaving out other races. Instead, it should be seen as creating more unity in our communities for all races.”

Lyjune Harper, director of talent acquisition at Consumers Energy said Juneteenth is, “A historical ending of bondage for an oppressed group people who had no freedom or rights. It is a celebration/acknowledgement of when freedom from slavery was granted through the Emancipation Proclamation,” she said.

She regularly reads about history and on Juneteenth she reflects on its significance.

Harper believes it is an important holiday for all to celebrate, “It is a Federal Holiday, and the same consideration should be given to Juneteenth as it as for the same reason that Americans celebrate July 4th, which is about freedom as well.”

As for misconceptions, she believes they exist because people don’t understand the history, “Most people know little about our history. It is not taught in schools and as a result most may not understood what it represents. We should study more of our history as a country and appreciate the significant impact that such history has had on the shape of our nation and ALL the people in it,” Harper said.

Kyle McCree, community affairs director at Consumers Energy believes Juneteenth is about freedom for all. “We mark the celebration of the order ending enslavement in Texas as a symbol of the end of the practice in the U.S.,” he said.

McCree said the meaning of Juneteenth has evolved over the years for him. “For most of my life, Juneteenth was more of a historical fact that I was aware of but not something celebrated,” he said. “Today, I attend community events or educational programs tied to the holiday.” McCree said it’s less about celebrating and more about reflecting. “It’s more about reflecting on what my relatives endured and how they were able to maintain some level of hope in such a dire situation,” he said.

Whether it’s Juneteenth or another cultural holiday, McCree believes there are benefits of celebrating. “I think it is always a good idea to join other cultures and communities in celebrating holidays together,” he said. “You will probably learn something, find something you have in common and usually have great food. Juneteenth is no different.”

As for the biggest misconception about Juneteenth? “That Texas was the last state to end slavery in June 1865. The practice continued to be legal is some parts of the US until the ratification of the 13th amendment towards the end of 1865,” said McCree.

Nick Milton, electric operations supervisor at Consumers Energy thinks Juneteenth highlights how slow change is. “As you go back and read history there is an assumption that news spreads quickly and laws and ideas are immediately implemented.  But in reality, they are not.  So, for me as I work toward change whether in my community or at work, I remind myself to stay consistent and be patient because that is what actually causes the change,” he said.

Milton celebrates with his family, “We take time to educate our younger generation of what Juneteenth is, he said. “We also allow time for our elders to share stories of their own personal challenges with racial change in their lifetimes.”

Milton thinks it’s important to celebrate the holiday because, “It allows others to see the lasting effects of oppression and challenges us to reconsider mechanisms that are still in effect today.”

He believes the biggest misconception is that slavery ended on June 19. “Even after June 19, 1865, there were still slaves in the US until the 13th amendment was finalized,” he said.

To learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at Consumers Energy, including our commitment to DE&I, visit our website.