By Kristal Farmer, WWPR Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Chair, Washington Gas

After 20 years in the United States, I’ve always been surprised by the lack of key historical holidays, specifically the date related to the abolishment of slavery which modern America is built upon.

For most British territories, Emancipation Day is marked on August 1, commemorating the Slave Emancipation Act in 1833. On this day, Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, The Bahamas, The British Virgin Islands and Canada commemorate the abolishment of slavery. 

As a side note, Trinidad and Tobago was the first country in the world to make Emancipation Day a national holiday in 1985. In the United States, freedom did not come until June 19, 1865, now recognized as Juneteenth.

When Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, I was eager to see how our nation would celebrate this important day, especially coming from a country that was among the first to recognize Emancipation Day as a national holiday. It’s been inspiring to see the national recognition for the accomplishments of the descendants of former enslaved Africans who are now leaders in government, business, education, science, sports, arts, music and commerce around the globe.

I had the good fortune to be in DC for the inaugural celebrations in 2021 and to understand what Juneteenth means to many of my friends and colleagues. The blend of the words “June” and “nineteenth” recognizes when the last enslaved people were informed of their freedom, also called Freedom Day. June 19, 2021, throughout the streets of DC, was a day of pride and positivity after the summer of unrest in 2020.

This year, many events within the DMV highlight African American resilience and achievement. While I missed the White House’s Juneteenth Concert, which took place on June 10, I have listed a couple of my favorites for 2024:

  • The National Museum of African American History & Culture
    • Saturday, June 17, 2024 – Juneteenth Community Day
  • National Harbor
    • Wednesday, June 19, 2024 – Celebrate Juneteenth
  • Library of Congress
    • Wednesday, June 19, 2024 – Juneteenth: Materials from the Library’s Collections

Juneteenth is a time to honor the achievements of African Americans and reflect on the ongoing journey toward equality and justice. Participating in these celebrations contributes to a deeper understanding and appreciation of this pivotal moment in history.

Let’s celebrate Juneteenth with pride, acknowledging the past while looking forward to a future of continued progress and unity.

Kristal Farmer is the 2024 WWPR Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Chair and is the manager of corporate communication projects at Washington Gas