For Nherika Givens, a part-time receptionist at Majestic Care of Deming Park, the month of June carries a special meaning. Having grown up in an African American household, she celebrated the holiday of Juneteenth by honoring those who made contributions towards ending slavery. Usually, this celebration was in the form of a cook-out where friends and family were invited to get together and share their history as well as hopes for the future. 

Many remember being taught in Social Studies class how our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, put an end to slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. What Nherika said is not being taught in class is that it took roughly another 900 days (about 2 and a half years) for the news to reach slaves in the south/southwest states. It was that date of June 19, 1865, that later became known as Juneteenth.       

While Juneteenth is considered a holiday, it aligns more as a day of remembrance. Remembering individuals that made it into the history books such as Harriet Tubman, but also honoring those who fought and died to give African Americans the freedom, liberty, and pursuit of happiness promised them in the constitution. It is those people that Nherika’s family focuses the most on: those individuals who can only be found in obscure writings and tales passed down through oral history.   

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, but has yet to find its way into the mainstream curriculum at primary schools: like other holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Perhaps in her lifetime she will see such a pivotal moment in African American and American history be recognized for the profound influence it had on making America the great country it is. Its contribution to culture will one day make patrons honor how far we have come and strive to become more.