Illustration of a Juneteenth flag in front of an orange and pink sunset

Juneteenth has become an official Gladstone holiday starting this year.


Starting this year, Gladstone has made Juneteenth an official holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the day—June 19, 1865—that federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and that all enslaved people were free.

A year later, freed people in Texas organized the first celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday and today, 47 states recognize or observe the day as a holiday in some capacity. In addition, there is a growing movement to make the day a federal holiday.

Over the past year, Gladstone’s internal community has learned a lot about the importance of recognizing these types of milestones and the role they play in creating an inclusive culture. Last year, several Gladstonians, who later formed the community group Elevated Voices, led the initiative to observe the holiday at Gladstone.

In 2021, for the first time, Gladstone is celebrating Juneteenth as a holiday. Some community members share the personal significance of the day and why this is an important organizational action.

Zainab Yusuf-Sada (she/her), Administrative Associate

Why is it important for Juneteenth to be an official holiday?

If Independence Day marks white America’s freedom from the tyranny of British rule, Juneteenth marks a major milestone in Black America’s freedom from the tyranny of bondage.
USA Today

Juneteenth is important because it is the end of 246 years of slavery. Juneteenth was the start of African Americans being included in the country they helped build.

Stephanie Hewett (she/her, they/them), Administrative Assistant

What does Juneteenth mean to you?

Juneteenth to me represents the full embodiment of Black freedom and celebrates the emancipation of enslaved Africans in America. Through this celebration, the Black community comes together to highlight the radical achievements of Black people in history. It is a day to emphasize the reclamation of humanity within the Black lived-experience in America, celebrate the deep-rooted resilience of the Black community, and galvanize efforts for a more just and equitable future.

Why is it important for Juneteenth to be an official holiday?

Without the infrastructure of American slavery, America would not be what it is today. It’s important for Juneteenth to be an official holiday because it shines a light on that truth, and invites non-Black people to truly reflect on how they benefit from the vestiges of those structures still felt and deeply experienced today. What do true reparations look like?

Linh Huynh, MA (she/her), Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

How will you be celebrating Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a significant part of American history because it commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. I encourage everyone to take the time to learn about the importance of Juneteenth and reflect on the history of slavery and the enduring legacy of institutional and anti-Black racism.

I plan to celebrate through deep reflection, action, and being in community. I will be attending a Juneteenth observance event and conference focusing on race relations and intercultural solidarity. For me, it is important to acknowledge progress and also continue to reflect on the ongoing work needed to affect change. I invite you to join me in attending the Juneteenth observance organized by the University of Michigan Women of Color Task Force on June 18, 2021.

Nicole Velasquez (she/her), Administrative Program Manager

What does Juneteenth mean to you?

As a Black woman, it’s important for me to celebrate personal triumphs and inspire the next generations to do the same. Juneteenth commemorates a pivotal moment in Black history. Remembering Juneteenth as part of American history acknowledges the historical battles against slavery and racism, but also reminds us of the continuous work that needs to be done. Battles have been won, but the war on racism, in all forms, is not over.

Why is it important for Juneteenth to be an official holiday?

Making Juneteenth an official holiday allows us time to reflect on the beauty and strength of Black history and culture. It also gives a chance for people to unite in the stand against inhumane acts against others, regardless their creed, color, and race.

Juneteenth allows me to spend time with my son and expose him to the history of his roots. During these celebrations, as I see the laughter in the crowds, the African patterns worn, the music of my ancestors, and the smile on my son’s face as he plays amongst the richness of our people, I’ll revel in the reminder of what we are all still fighting for. Cheers to the celebration of hope and resistance!

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