SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – June 15, 2023 – Members of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command held Juneteenth Emancipation Day observance events here Wednesday at its headquarters.
Juneteenth officially became the eleventh federal holiday in 2021 and is the first new federal holiday since the recognition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 1983. The observance recognizes the end of slavery and extended the nation’s promise of freedom and liberty to Black Americans.
This year’s theme is Celebrating Freedom, and Ms. Kristina O’Brien, SDDC’s deputy to the commander, opened the event by sharing a brief history of Juneteenth.
“The holiday has expanded from a local event to one recognized across the nation and is considered the longest-running African American holiday,” said O’Brien. “The day has long been celebrated by Black Americans as a symbol of their emancipation — but the story behind the holiday and how Juneteenth got its meaning started more than 150 years ago in Galveston, Texas.”
Attendees participated in a Freedom walk in honor of Ms. Opal Lee, a teacher and activist. She campaigned for decades to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and at age 89, organized a 1,400-mile march from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington D.C. to raise awareness. Since then, she has led two-and-a-half-mile marches, representing the two and a half years it took for Emancipation Proclamation news to reach Black Americans in Texas.
Antwoinette Ayers, a local speaker at the event, said that President Joseph Biden was the first president to recognize Juneteenth and that it was due to activists like Opal Lee and Lula Briggs Galloway, founder of the Juneteenth Creative Culture Center and Museum, who paved the way.
Also at the event, was an education table where people were encouraged to learn more about the emancipation history and food samples.
“On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice,” said O’Brien. “We honor the centuries of struggle and progress led by educators, civil rights leaders, advocates, lawyers, activists, religious leaders, public officials, and everyday Americans, those of us who are here, who have brought our Nation closer to fulfilling its promise.”