Reporter, Hart Co. News-Herald
June 19 – also known as Juneteenth – has become an increasingly prominent day of national celebration commemorating when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas were finally freed. It has over time evolved to symbolize the celebration of the emancipation of all enslaved people. The holiday is also a celebration of African American heritage.
Maria Lewis, a 2000 Graduate of Caverna High School and current Library Access Services Manager at Simmons College of Kentucky, shares her thoughts about the holiday.
Q: What does Juneteenth mean to you? Do you celebrate or honor that day? If so, how?
A: Juneteenth means freedom to my ancestors but as for me, it means free-ish since 1865. I say free-ish because even after Emancipation, black people were not treated as an equal to Caucasians. Since 1865 until now, 2022, racism and oppression are still alive and well. I celebrate/honor by doing my own research on black history. There are so many things that I do not know about my own history, and I think that is sad. I remember in elementary and high school, we would talk about Rosa Parks, Malcolm x, and Martin Luther King Jr. during Black History Month. That was about it.
Q: Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day. What does freedom mean to you?
A: Freedom to me is to simply treat everyone equally, not because of their skin color, ethnicity, sexuality, etc. I am so tired of code switching when I’m in different spaces.
Q: What do you hope happens or what would you like to happen as a result of Juneteenth becoming more widely celebrated?
A: I would like for everyone to take time to learn about Juneteenth and black history in general. It would be great if black history would be a required course in schools and colleges.
Q: What are your thoughts on social and/or justice reform?
A: I don’t have any thoughts on reform. We as a human race just simply need to do right by others. If people want to stay ignorant, take it up with God at this point. He does not like ugly!!
Q: What do you feel are some changes that may still need to be made to bring about equality for all?
A: I don’t have any changes, but I need for people, especially Caucasians to listen. Just listen. If I, a black woman, tell you, a white person, that something is offensive, I need you to listen to why it’s offensive and not talk over me or laugh at me. It’s happened to me on several occasions.