CEO Kathryn Shea’s Message on Why Juneteenth Matters

By Kathryn Shea, President and CEO of The Florida Center for Early Childhood

As I sit here in my cozy, comfortable home on the eve of Juneteenth, I am realizing I have absolutely no idea what this holiday is all about. And, as I’m researching the history of this holiday, I am becoming more and more embarrassed that I have never heard of it.  How is that possible?! I, who have been involved in the Civil Rights movement and working for justice and equality for so many years of my life?

I have no explanation.  But, as my dear dad always said to his children nearly every day,

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today is the only day that matters.”

Thanks, dear dad, for your wise words.

Kathryn Shea and her adopted son Seth Winners. Kathryn has been a lifelong advocate for equality.

I will focus on today, and tomorrow, “the mystery”.  I spent a great deal of time today learning about Juneteenth and it was fascinating to me.  It’s been more than 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation.  But, only since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s have African Americans truly been free, and quite honestly, that’s questionable.

Even though President Abraham Lincoln had issued an executive order, later known as the Emancipation Proclamation, in September, 1862 to be effective January 1, 1863, Texas either had not been aware of the executive order issued by President Lincoln or choose to ignore it.  Therefore, a mission known as General Order 3, was delivered in Galveston Texas, and read by Major General Gordon Granger of the Union soldiers:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.  This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former master and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor…”

On June 19, this year especially with the Black Lives Matters Movement, and all that is going on in our county, we need to use this day, not only to celebrate, but to evaluate.  Are we truly where we need to be in terms of diversity, equity, and justice for all?  I personally think we have much work to do, and I pledge to do my part to the very best of my ability.

As of 2020, 48 states (including New York) and the District of Columbia have all passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a day of observance.

So, I put forth to you my personal pledge, I will work to make Florida recognize this important day in our history a state holiday.  I further pledge to you that effective June 19, 2021, The Florida Center for Early Childhood will include this this day in our annual holiday schedule.

We all have a responsibility to do our part to make this world a more just and equitable space for all.  I believe in us.  “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”  Let’s get it done.