Juneteenth is a day to honor Black history in the United States. On June 19, 1865, more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the news of the end of the Civil War and freedom for enslaved Black people finally reached Galveston, Texas.
Today, Juneteenth commemorations are held annually to mark the end of slavery in the U.S. through celebration, education, and advocacy. However, this celebration is complex. While rejoicing in progress, we must continue to educate ourselves about our history to help guide our future. We honor those who fought, endured, and continue to persevere in the fight for equality. We celebrate with the awareness that advocacy is still necessary in America's pursuit of equality and, ultimately, equity. It is today and every day that we recognize the resilience in those that continue this fight daily through their existence and lived experiences.
While Juneteenth is primarily recognized in the U.S., it offers global communities the opportunity to reflect on the continuous march for justice and equality for Black communities around the world and reminds us we all have a shared responsibility to create lasting change.
As a Program Manager within Amazon's Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team, it has been my honor to partner with teams around the world to curate a mix of internal and external programs designed to celebrate, educate, and advocate with my colleagues and communities. Here are a few ways you can join Amazon in recognizing Juneteenth:
Amazon is a sponsor of the inaugural Juneteenth Unityfest, a national livestream event conceived by Grammy-nominated African-American artist Robert Randolph, that will bring together people of all backgrounds in a day of unity to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth and Black culture with musical performances, inspiring remarks, films, comedy, storytelling, and appearances by civic leaders and influencers. Hosted by actress and author Amanda Seales and comedian JB Smoove, Juneteenth Unityfest will include musical performances by icons like Earth, Wind & Fire, Nile Rodgers and CHIC, Darius Rucker, and Dave Matthews and Carter Beauford, as well as guest appearances by Phylicia Rashad, Billy Porter, Jon Hamm, Van Jones, and more. During the event, viewers will get the opportunity to learn more about Amazon's education initiatives, as well as the recent launch of the our Black Business Accelerator. Join the celebration.
Amazon is a promotional sponsor of Blk Freedom's 2021 Virtual Museum Experience taking place on Friday, June 18. Ten African American History museums, including the Amistad Research Center, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, are collaborating for virtual tours of their institutions, utilizing lyrics from the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (often referred to as the Black national anthem) to guide their programming.
Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star stores will feature a selection of books that highlight the history of Juneteenth in a feature called "Celebrate Juneteenth." Highlighted books include On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed, Juneteenth: A Novel by Ralph Ellison, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel, All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, Juneteenth (On My Own Holidays) by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson, and Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids by Arlisha Norwood.
Prime Video has a curated selection of movies and series to acknowledge and honor Juneteenth. The collection celebrates Black Excellence, and includes Amazon Originals such as Small Axe and The Underground Railroad, licensed titles like Moesha, and titles such as Timewasters from IMDb TV, Amazon's free streaming service.
You can also ask “Alexa, teach me about Juneteenth,” “Alexa, what do you know about Juneteenth,” or “Alexa, what is the history of Juneteenth?” to learn more about the day.
Amazon recently announced that it was donating $1 million to be distributed to 13 community-based organizations that support communities of color in Seattle. The funds will help sustain ongoing programs relating to equity and social justice, youth development, arts and culture, upskilling and workforce development, and sustainability. The groups that will receive funding are: Byrd Barr Place, Clean Greens Farm and Market, Spectrum Dance Theater, Northwest African American Museum, BCC Community Development Services, Tabor 100, Mentoring Urban Students and Teens, Brothers United in Leadership Development, Keep Music Live, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Central Area Youth Association, and the Technology Access Foundation.
In addition to the $1 million donation, Amazon will also sponsor Juneteenth Week 2021, the Northwest African American Museum's celebration of Black freedom, which culminates with the Juneteenth Jamboree in the Park on June 19 at Seattle's Judkins Park.
I'm glad to see that Juneteenth has increased in recognition. Just this week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation in a move to make it a federal holiday, moving from the margins to the mainstream of American culture. It is my hope that acknowledgement of the holiday continues to grow, offering us an opportunity to honor how far we have come in our journey toward equality in the United States and beyond, acknowledge how far we still have to go, and rejoice in the resilience of Black people in this moment.
Juneteenth is not just about Black History—it is American history.