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What is the Meaning Behind Juneteenth?

By Tasha L. Wilburn, Financial Educator, Business Professor

What is the meaning behind Juneteenth?

We are celebrating how far we have come – I don’t have to endure what my ancestors endured.

But it is also about recognizing how much further we have to go.

I don’t want my children or their children to endure or witness what I am going through now.

While Juneteenth is a joyous celebration, I also take this time to reflect on how I feel. As a person of color in America. As a black woman in America, I am upset. I am disappointed. And I am sad.

I am upset because people who look like me are being slaughtered for looking like me. In 2020, George Floyd, a black man, was forced to the ground and held there for eight minutes by a police officer’s knee pressed against his throat. George Floyd died and his death initiated riots and protests nationwide. He was stopped by the police because he was suspected of committing a crime. But ask yourself if he was a white man suspected of committing that same crime, would he still be alive today? The answer is YES. This upsets me.

I am disappointed in people, the system, and America. Why is race still an issue? Why does the color of my skin still matter? Why do people still look at me and assume I am uneducated, unmarried, unprofessional, and poor simply by looking at me. I am anything but these stereotypes and prejudices, but many people will never know because of the color of my skin, the fullness of my facial features, and the texture of my hair. This disappoints me.

I am sad because we have been fighting and fighting and fighting for equality since June 19, 1865, when all slaves in the US were set free. This is why we celebrate Juneteenth. This day was our Freedom Day, yet we are still not really free. We are not free to live our lives without being judged, incarcerated, murdered, and treated like animals. This saddens me.

If this country can’t grant equality, then I can only hope for fairness. I want to be treated and judged based off my personal equity. I worked very hard to get to where I am today. To become who I am today. I should be given the respect, acknowledgment, and opportunities that I deserve because I am worth it. I AM WORTH IT.

So this Juneteenth, in between your celebrations and barbeques, I ask you to think about how we can work together to make America a fair and more equitable place for all, regardless of skin color, creed, sexual orientation, or religion. Our differences are ultimately what makes America beautiful.

I also encourage you to check out my Juneteenth reading list:

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

A historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African Americans have endured in the century since.

Watermelon and Red Birds by Nicole A. Taylor

In the first cookbook to celebrate Juneteenth, food writer Nicole A. Taylor draws on her decade of experiences observing the holiday.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

With candor and sympathy, debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction.

Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration by Edward T. Cotham Jr.

The first scholarly book to delve into the history behind Juneteenth separates myth from reality and provides new understanding and appreciation for the event.

Tasha L. Wilburn is a college professor, best-selling author, and financial coach. She has been the keynote speaker at two previous Diversitas symposiums. Her main goal is to help others become accountable, pay down debt, save money, and build real wealth. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Tasha lives there with her husband and two children. For more information about Tasha, please visit