On Friday, June 19, communities all over the United States will celebrate Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, nearly 2 and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, declaring that all previously enslaved people were free. Juneteenth is celebrated in a variety of ways, including public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, performances of traditional songs and writings from notable African Americans, historical reenactments, street fairs and festivals, cookouts, and family reunions.
Kaiser Permanente's Juneteenth celebrations date back to 1944, when Kaiser shipyard workers in Portland, Oregon attended an "Emancipation Marathon" and softball games.
Juneteenth has special significance when viewed through the lens of the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, as it reminds us that the structural racism and oppression that have plagued Black communities for generations continues. To change this unacceptable reality, it will take our collective efforts, and it will require both courageous actions and a deep conviction that our mutual dreams and fates are inextricably linked. As an organization, we’re committed to doing our part by increasing our efforts to create an inclusive workplace for employees and provide equitable care for our patients, members, and communities.
This week, people of all backgrounds and cultures will observe Juneteenth as both a celebration and a time to acknowledge a horrific period in our history that continues to haunt and betray our aspirations for freedom, equality, and justice for all. A greater understanding of our history and the experiences of all those who helped shape it can galvanize us to make impactful and lasting advances in equity, inclusion, and diversity in our communities and our country.
Today and always, Kaiser Permanente honors the many sacrifices and contributions made by African Americans in the United States, and we join all of our employees, members, and communities in observing Juneteenth. We stand unwavering in our solidarity against racism, injustice, and inequality, and we hope this time serves as a reminder of both our great progress as a nation and all the work we have yet to do to create a more equitable world, where every person’s life is valued and each of us feels we belong.