Celebrating Juneteenth

Joan Hatem-Roy

This weekend, communities around the country will recognize and celebrate Juneteenth, an important annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Many of us were taught in school that slavery ended with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Unfortunately, in many parts of our country, the practice continued.

On June 19, 1865, the last of the enslaved African Americans were informed of the Proclamation and freed. It is that day that we recognize and honor as Juneteenth.

For more than 100 years, the Juneteenth holiday has been celebrated by many African Americans with parades, cookouts, music, and speeches. It has only been in more recent years that the holiday had gained more attention, particularly in light of national protest and recognition of ongoing racism throughout our nation.

While we celebrate freedom this weekend, we also recognize that the work of dismantling racism continues. The struggle of African Americans did not end with the Civil War or with the passage of laws forbidding segregation a century later. African Americans still face unjust treatment in housing, healthcare, education, and employment.

This is particularly true for older African Americans who need support and other essential services to allow them to live safely and independently in their homes. These services might include aid with homemaking, personal care, meal preparation, and transportation to medical appointments—as well as advice about finances, fitness, Medicare, caregiving, nutrition, and much more.

At Elder Services, we are committed to supporting all people in living their lives independently to the fullest extent possible.

In this period of renewed reckoning with racism, Elder Services has made a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by acting against injustice, intolerance, and discrimination.

This commitment includes recognizing and celebrating the Juneteenth holiday. Our agency is striving toward becoming better at being an environment of equality and inclusion—but this, we realize, is a work in progress.

Listening to the outcry that has arisen throughout this country, we are moving forward with a plan to make our agency more aware, more inclusive, and more diverse in the future.

We urge all of you to join us in celebrating Juneteenth.

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email ageinfo@esmv.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

 

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