Friday, June 19th is Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Wyche’s offices will be closed to observe and celebrate this day.
Juneteenth is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery and marks the day when people in Galveston, Texas, one of the deepest parts of the Confederacy, received news of emancipation. Currently 47 of 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an observance or official state holiday. Events are held to commemorate Juneteenth in cities and towns across America and even in some other countries. Unfortunately, the pandemic has shuttered many of these events this year. Fortunately, there are many virtual celebrations that will give you an opportunity to learn more and engage in this important day long celebrated by African Americans as a special day of independence. Many people celebrate Juneteenth with barbecues and family meals including red food and beverages in reverence for the bloodshed of the enslaved and those fighting against it. If you would like to read more about Juneteenth, please click here and here. You can also find some of the virtual celebrations planned for the day listed here. Another way to use the day to reflect on the history of this country is to view a film. All of the major streaming services have dedicated collections of a broad range of films.
Earlier this week, our firm reflected on the memory of our friend and client, the late Reverend and Senator Clementa Pinckney. Five years ago this week, Senator Pinkney was gunned down while presiding over a bible study session into which he had welcomed earlier that evening the man who would end his life. Eight of his parishioners also had their lives taken away by the gunman, including: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Ethel Lance, and Myra Thompson. Three others were in the room and survived the shooting: Felicia Sanders, her granddaughter, and Polly Sheppard. Jennifer Pinckney and her youngest daughter were also at the church but were in an office hiding under a desk during the shooting. We were fortunate to host Ms. Pinckney for a conversation about resilience a few years ago. She and her daughters continue to display strength in the face of tragedy and are continuing the work of Senator Pinkney in many ways. On Wednesday, they released a video in remembrance of Senator Pinckney. You can view their tribute here. Established in 1816, Mother Emanuel has a long, rich history in faith-centered community efforts to fight against slavery, racism, and inequality. You can read more about the history of the church here.
The Mother Emanuel Massacre prompted a local and national conversation about racism in America. In the wake of the tragedy, powerful stakeholders around South Carolina took decisive action to call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. The General Assembly listened to these powerful voices, and the flag quickly came down. America is now facing a renewed reckoning with racism. There are real conversations about racial inequality and discrimination happening around this country, in boardrooms, in capital buildings, in the streets, and in living rooms. These are hard conversations, about issues that make many of us uncomfortable, because they expose our individual roles in a system that perpetuates the mistreatment of marginalized people. This is a moment that could bring about real change but only if we are committed to doing the work.
Listen. Believe. Empathize. Act.