Juneteenth: Supporting Mental Health Equity Everyday
What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, honors the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States in the month of June. The holiday's history began in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. In that year, the Civil War Union General Gordon Granger, arrived with Union troops to free the people living in slavery in the Texas town, two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, enacted by Abraham Lincoln, declared that all slaves, or enslaved peoples, inside and outside Union lines be freed. The International Day For the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is another holiday that honors African American history that commemorates the African Americans who were killed and injured during open fire from police at a peaceful demonstration in 1960.
Though many have recognized Juneteenth in Texas and around the country since 1866, it was not officially declared a holiday on the federal calendar until June 17th, 2021. This year, the holiday falls on June 20th, which is a Monday in June. Its long path to one of the national dates of celebration in June that has been fraught with advocacy against the holiday's ignorance and is still a hot topic, outside of Texas, even today.
A Brief History
Before we dive into Juneteenth, let's revisit the end of slavery in Texas, the state where June 19 and its subsequent recognition began. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War, however, it did not immediately free all enslaved people; in fact, the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to enslaved people that were residing in states under confederate control. Once the war was over, however, both states within Union lines and the former confederacy were required to allow former enslaved people their freedom. In the state of Texas specifically, slavery remained legal until the arrival of General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.
General Granger arrived with Union troops from their military posts to read the General Orders #3 to the people living in slavery in Galveston, Texas. The order, issued by the White House, proclaimed: "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."
Thus, the formerly enslaved people of Texas celebrated the end of slavery in their state. The people of Texas were released from their former masters, transitioned from slaves to hired labor, and officially became freed people with personal rights due to this proclamation. The next year, 1866, became the first year that formerly enslaved people celebrated the end of slavery with "Jubilee Day", which occurred on June 20 in Texas. As the years went on, Texas became the first state to make June 19 an official state holiday celebrating Juneteenth as the end of slavery for African Americans.
Last year, over one-hundred-fifty-years after the original Juneteenth celebrations, President Biden, the current Executive of the United States, declared Juneteenth a federal holiday, extending its reach beyond Texas. Now, even former confederate states in this country are required to recognize this new annual tradition. The official holiday will be celebrated annually across the nation, just like Memorial Day, in honor of the freedom that African Americans experienced after the Emancipation Proclamation, making Juneteenth a June holiday for the American, not just Texas, history books.
Alternative Names For This Holiday
Also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day, and Freedom Day, Juneteenth is now more widely celebrated across the country as the official day ending slavery since its recognition as one of the federal holidays in 2021. Communities can hold a Juneteenth parade, concerts with live music, social gatherings, and other Juneteenth events in honor of the national holiday. Juneteenth celebrations in June are for recognizing this new national holiday, as well as celebrating African American culture, African American freedom, and the historical significance of Juneteenth day in June.
Recognizing And Observing Juneteenth Appropriately
Honoring Juneteenth, aka the Texas organized Emancipation Day, as a state holiday in June is more important now than ever. Juneteenth is not simply a time where we recognize slavery in the United States, but also a time where we identify the connection heretofore existing between the history of slavery in the United States and modern racial injustice. Juneteenth, in June, is not a day to remain quietly passive, but is instead a time to remember the history of African American enslaved people. Especially in regards to other mental health holidays, like National Minority Mental Health month & disparities that minorities experience.
Many of us have forgotten to advocate for racial equality in the wake of the 2020 protests and unrest against historical and current racial injustice. Two years have passed since our nation focused on these issues through television networks' broadcasts, and much of the conversation and executive action has died down outside the month of June. As non-Black individuals, this year's Juneteenth can be when we choose to continue our work for racial justice and rights, two essential factors in the ongoing fight for freedom, beyond the month of June.
Juneteenth Independence Day is the first new federal holiday created under the President Biden administration, with help from former Texas State Representative, Al Edwards. Thus, early celebrations and traditions have not been established quite yet. This means that there are many ways you can recognize the new federal holiday this year. For example, Fort Worth, Texas organized the "I am Juneteenth" Festival for this upcoming June Sunday to recognize the struggles that formerly enslaved people experienced. These festivals can be learning opportunities to focus on African American history and African American studies, while also bringing recognition to current civil rights violations that African Americans are still experiencing.
Juneteenth commemorates African American history and the end of slavery in the United States, while also bringing current attention to issues of modern racial injustice and reminding us of all the work that still needs to be done to reach absolute equality for African Americans.
In that regard, equity becomes an essential idea to uphold. Promoting equity on Juneteenth is just one way to celebrate it intentionally and with thoughtful action. This article will explore how mental health equity is vital, how we can each support it, and list the systems that need to be in place.
What Is Equity?
What Is The Difference Between Equality Vs. Equity?
Why Does Mental Health Equity Matter For Juneteenth?
In mental health, the difference between equity and equality is equally valuable and apparent in many cases beyond the month of June.
Equity becomes an essential term for mental health when considering Juneteenth and its historical background.
Common Racial Discrimination Situations In Healthcare
In addition to a heightened risk of impacted mental health, Black Americans also report experiencing discrimination within the mental health field.
There are countless examples of racism in mental health services. Care providers are much more likely to diagnose Black American clients with schizophrenia than with mood disorders that can present the same symptoms. Similarly, Black children are over-diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to their white peers, leading to poor educational and long-term outcomes.
This level of misdiagnosis and disparity between white and Black Americans extends to all aspects of healthcare. Research has shown time and time again the discrimination that Black folks face in healthcare, creating situations in which clinicians underdiagnose illnesses, claims of pain are ignored, and Black Americans have higher rates of death. One study found that physicians were "twice as likely to underestimate pain in Black patients compared to all other ethnicities combined."
What Does Mental Health Equity Look Like?
What Do We Need To Create Mental Health Equity In The U.S.?
How You Can Support Mental Health Equity On Juneteenth And All Year Long
Supporting mental health equity lasts longer than the holiday celebrations of Juneteenth, but that doesn't mean you can't use Juneteenth to start your work. As an individual, it may seem like there is little you can do to support mental health equity when we need extensive systemic changes, but your daily choices can still make an impact.
Advocacy plays a huge role in catalyzing systemic change. Advocate as an individual or gather your friends, family, and community to encourage local and national representatives and organizations to allocate funding to mental health equity and develop programs with these goals in mind.
Recognizing Your Privilege
Learn about your privilege to better understand the need for mental health equity this Juneteenth. Exploring resources about what it means to have white privilege, especially in the lens of mental health, can help you decide what you can do to support equity in your community and nationwide, even after the month of June is over.
Celebrate Juneteenth like you would any other federal holiday this June 19 and June 20. Here are a couple of examples for how you can celebrate during the month of June:
- spending time with others at family gatherings during June
- cooking celebratory food in your kitchen, inspired by African American communities & cooking
- brainstorming ways and ideas to help promote equity this June
- attending a Juneteenth festival on June 19
- flying your American or Texas flag at half mast
- educating yourself by reading news and information on racial injustice, historical events like the Civil War, slavery, and Emancipation Proclamation, and legislation changes during the month of June
- coming up with a new tradition or annual celebration that honors those lost to discriminatory violence
- and more!