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Juneteenth commemorates a defining moment in Black American History. I celebrate Juneteenth because I want to make sure Black culture and history is continuously taught and remembered.

I use the day to celebrate the success that my community has, but also to remember why it is important to remind people where we have come from in this country, from a history of slavery, its consequences and its aftermath.

Renita Washington

Here in Connecticut, 2023 will mark the first year that Juneteenth is officially recognized as a legal state holiday. But according to the Pew Research Center, many states still will not recognize this as an official holiday this year, leaving many Black people unable to really enjoy the celebration.

In the news there are many issues that make me question if the progress we celebrate on Juneteenth is at risk. For me, the issues that concern me most are bans on Critical Race Theory and watching as the Supreme Court makes its decision on affirmative action.

Many other states are unfortunately debating whether Critical Race theory should be banned, because they feel as if it suggests children should be ashamed of their race and gender. I would, however, argue that banning Critical Race Theory allows people to lose part of American history which includes Black American history. This theory’s goal is not to tear down people but bring light to systematic racism that is still present in our country.  

The argument of whether we should keep affirmative action is ridiculous. During the civil rights movement, activists fought for a fair chance in higher education regardless of who one is, where they come from, and what they believe in. To take it away puts future scholars at risk of not having a fair chance at education. 

The most interesting thing about this fight is watching how people react, who can and did benefit from it, whether they know it or not. Because this appears to be such a split decision on the Supreme Court, it is hard to determine where this is going and how it will affect the future of education in this country. It’s one of those things that make you question the future regarding Black children being looked at as equal to their peers, as well the right for all children to learn about every part of American history. 

Although these issues are a consistent battle, I am reminded of Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman’s words, “Juneteenth is something that is not necessarily part of the story of all Black folks in America, but it’s part of Black America’s story… And I think that is worth celebrating every time.”

I encourage everyone to think about ways they can continue to educate and learn during this time. 

Here are three things I am doing to stay connected to Black culture during Juneteenth. I am listening to NPR’s Black Music Month as I celebrate Black music. I am visiting local Black restaurants to enjoy the flavors of food from the Caribbean to that good Southern soul food. 

Lastly, I am making sure that I engage in hard conversations about the issues that I have been looking into to try to understand all views and make sure Black people’s voices are heard.

Renita Washington lives in Hartford.