When President Joe Biden signed the bill into law that established June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, he became responsible for more than just what he called “one of the great honors” of his presidency by creating a new U.S. federal holiday.
The president also encouraged an excellent opportunity for Americans.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the end of slavery was finally announced in Galveston, Texas, despite President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation into law two years earlier in 1863.
For many African Americans, the celebration of Juneteenth is nothing new. Honoring the holiday for the past 150 years has offered the Black community an opportunity to reflect and embrace all that makes Black culture in America so worthy of celebrating.
Black and white people alike took solace in each other’s company this year at Juneteenth celebrations and the chance to revel in the African American experience and their community’s ability to persevere was embraced.
The creation of a federal holiday alone, though, will never atone for the atrocities African Americans have suffered through for generations.
Time may heal some wounds, but the indignities suffered by Black citizens in this country must not be forgotten. The fight for equality must continue by Americans of all races and creeds.
On Juneteenth, white Americans are also presented with a great opportunity – to listen.
For white Americans, the commemoration of Juneteenth should be met with solemn reflection and a kind ear toward African Americans who must have the opportunity to share the experiences of their people.
While a white journalist should probably heed his own advice as to the importance of only using active listening as a tool for fighting racism by members of his race, the importance of learning from the words of African Americans on this subject must not be lost on any reader.
Listening to stories and ideas shared by our neighbors might just help foster some of the empathy and change that is still so sorely needed in the United States.
And there may be no better place to listen than around a dinner table.
This issue of South Hills Living contains stories celebrating some of the newest eateries in the area.
This magazine features a column by CJ Richter, who wrote of the trials and tribulations of opening an eatery called Poco a Poco with his wife, Jackie. The couple has gone through a lot since opening during a pandemic, and their devotion to each other and their business is beautiful to behold.
The same can be said of Melanie Streitmatter, who opened Mel’s Petit Café in Mt. Lebanon. Francesca Sacco’s story on Streitmatter highlights the business owner’s passion for her food and sharing her French heritage. Sacco’s story is a great read, and I can’t wait to stop in Streitmatter’s cafe to experience what she has to offer.
While listening to stories and sharing ideas around a dinner table may not change the world, the simple act of maintaining a dialogue around issues of race in this country is a crucial step toward change.
Take some time to enjoy the company of good friends and family this summer. Talk, listen and continue to try and come together.
Thank you for reading.