Today, June 19, we observe Juneteenth, our newest Federal holiday.

Juneteenth signifies the day that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas – June 19, 1865 – to order the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, 2½ years after it took effect.

Like Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, not Mexican Independence Day, which is Sept. 16, many Americans are mistaken about the significance of Juneteenth, believing it commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. (In fact, President Abraham Lincoln declared on Sept. 22, 1862, that the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery would take effect on Jan. 1, 1863.)

Juneteenth, which is indeed a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, has been observed in many circles since 1866, but wasn’t observed as a Federal Holiday until 2021.

This misnomer about Juneteenth is consistent, I believe, with being Black in America – misunderstood or unknown historical events and people continue to taint the Black experience and make Black Americans feel rejected in their own country. There are many important people and events that should be a more significant part of our conscience.

Juneteenth represents freedom and justice for Black Americans, and in recognition of that it is appropriate for us to pause and reflect on how important ending structural racism and promoting mental health equity is for the Black community, other communities of color, and our society at large.

Good mental health depends upon many things, including being seen and heard. This process includes listening to people who have experienced injustice firsthand and engaging in open and honest conversations around the issues.

It is important to recognize people for who they are. Ask people about themselves and their families and ancestors, their culture and traditions. You might be surprised at what you learn. You might even discover that you have some important things in common.

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