Observing Juneteenth

Sandra Charles

For many Americans, June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It is considered the longest-running African American holiday and has been called “America’s second Independence Day.” Juneteenth acknowledges African American history and amplifies the magnitude of the culture’s struggle, impact and contribution to American society.

In 1865, Union General Gordon Granger led federal troops to Galveston, Texas, where he announced the end of the Civil War and slavery in the United States. Since 1866 African Americans in neighborhoods and cities across the country have celebrated and held close the promises of freedom from oppression. In the late 1970s, when the Texas Legislature declared Juneteenth a “holiday of significance,” it became the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday.

As the country considers making Juneteenth a national holiday, Illinois nears declaring Juneteenth a holiday for schools and state employees and would join four other states in this day of observance. In recognizing Juneteenth as a day of significance, we the senior leadership will exercise the choice to take a personal day of leave from work on Friday, June 18, or Monday, June 21, to reflect on the past, educate ourselves and energize our commitment to influence organizational change in the present.

During the past year, many of you across the Fermilab community have contributed to discussions and provided your recommendations in an effort to help influence a consistent, equitable and transparent culture. Our refreshed approach to identifying and addressing workforce and workplace gaps and opportunities shows our collective ownership for building a respectful and supportive environment for everyone with zero tolerance for discrimination and harassment. We appreciate the time and effort you’ve provided in sharing your inputs, and we encourage everyone to continue the conversation. Every voice matters as we continue to build trust and realize positive change together. We are making progress, but we aren’t there yet.

Sandra Charles is Fermilab chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer.