Even though the official Juneteenth holiday is now behind us for 2022, the work is not; it continues every day. Thank you to Bounce program manager, Asha Zayn, for sharing their thoughts about the holiday, its history and its meaning to Black Americans.
On June 19, 1865, in Galveston Bay, Texas, approximately 2,000 Black Union troops delivered the news to the state’s more than 250,000 Black enslaved people that they were now free and informed them of their right to be acknowledged as a whole person – two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. On that day, Black Joy exuded from thousands of men, women, and children. The news carried to many parts of the country where celebrations broke out and Juneteenth was born.
Juneteenth is essential because many white Americans did not subscribe to this new reality of accepting Black people as fully human. And, unfortunately, many still do not.
Fast forward to June 19, 2022, and the United States now recognizes Juneteenth as a federal holiday to celebrate and acknowledge the history of being Black in America. This existence looks like giving flowers to the civil rights leaders, businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, and community members who continually uplift Blackness in America. However, did you know that a huge proponent of Juneteenth and a reason for it becoming a federal holiday is a Black woman named Opal Lee?
Opal Lee is an activist who pushed for the importance of nationally commemorating June 19 because of the gravity it holds and will continue to hold in America. The fight for Black freedom is an ongoing one that began in the 1800s, and this holiday honors how Black America withstands hatred, hardship and the ignorance of racism. Lee made her impact through activism, teaching and serving as a counselor. Following in her footsteps, there are many ways individuals can make an impact within their community.
Celebrating and uplifting Black entrepreneurship is one. Entrepreneurship for many Black Americans has become a way to provide a life for themselves and their families to foster generational wealth. You can find Black-owned businesses in each of Akron’s 22 neighborhoods and throughout the greater Summit County area.
- There are more than two million Black-owned businesses in America.
- Thirty-five percent of Black business owners are women.
- Forty-four percent of Black small business owners use their own cash to start.
- Black business owners receive less business funding and at higher rates.
- One percent of Black business owners obtain business loans in their first year.
The entrepreneurial track for many Black Americans is a way to be their own bosses, show young people and peers that running a business is possible, and avoid the challenges of navigating workplace environments where defending your presence is more work than the job itself.
As June closes out and you wonder how you can embody inclusiveness, start with how you can provide more access to resources and opportunities to those who have historically been discriminated against due to something that is not a choice, but a reality. Inclusiveness aims to provide equal access to opportunities and resources for people who are otherwise excluded or marginalized.
How do you plan to be a part of something bigger than yourself even if it does not serve you?