Happy Juneteenth 

It took 156 years for the federal government to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, which we at LifeLong are celebrating as a holiday this coming Wednesday. We owe much of that recognition to an elderly African American woman who made it her life’s work to see the day honored. 

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that all enslaved people had been freed. The troops got there more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered, but word had not reached the citizens of Texas. 

By the time the federal government declared it a holiday in 2021, 48 states had already passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth, though few had made it a paid holiday. Why did it take more than a century and a half for federal recognition? 

A new urgency emerged during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests following the killing of Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And then there were the efforts of 97-year-old Opal Lee. 

Lee, who is often described as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” grew up in a predominantly White neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas, about 300 miles from Galveston. When she was 12, a mob of 500 White supremacists burned down her home. No arrests were made. Lee said that the experience channeled her into a life of teaching and activism. 

In 2016, at age 89, she walked from her home in Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., covering two and a half miles each day to symbolize the two and half years that Black Texans waited to hear they were free. Lee and others peppered Washington with thousands of signatures supporting a holiday. She was with President Biden in 2021 when he signed the bill making Juneteenth a national holiday. 

When asked by the New York Times to address the acceptance of July 4 as a national day of independence 150 years before Juneteenth got its due, she said this: “We have simply got to make people aware that none of us are free until we’re all free, and we aren’t free yet….We need some decent education and some decent jobs that pay money, and we need healthcare and all kinds of things and if people would just get together and address these disparities, we’d be well on our way to being the greatest country in the world.” 

Juneteenth celebrations are happening around the Bay Area. Here are a few: 

  • 27th Annual Berkeley Juneteenth Festival, Sunday June 16, 11 am to 7 pm. At Alcatraz and Adeline streets. Faye Carol performs along with Niecey Living Single, Kava Jah and the REMEDY, and others. There will be activities for adults and children along with performances directed toward young adults. 
  • Hella Juneteenth, the Cookout. Hella Creative is hosting this event at the Oakland Museum of California with cuisine prepared by Black chefs and restaurants, live music and activities from 1 pm to 5 pm on June 19.  
  • The Juneteenth San Francisco Freedom Celebration takes place on Saturday June 15 on eight blocks of Fillmore Street from 11 am to 6 pm. With 50 retail and food vendors, a kids zone, a classic car show, and many live performances. 

More News

International Non-Binary People’s Day 

International Non-Binary People’s Day is Sunday July...
Learn More about International Non-Binary People’s Day 

Welcome New Hires

 Here are people recently hired at LifeLong....
Learn More about Welcome New Hires

Happy 48th Birthday, LifeLong 

The date was July 1, 1976, the place, Berkeley,...
Learn More about Happy 48th Birthday, LifeLong