Osmosis News

Observing Juneteenth at Osmosis

Osmosis Team
Published on Jun 19, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

Trigger warning: description of violence.

Juneteenth 2020 is just around the corner, and if you haven’t celebrated it before, you probably have some questions about what it is and how to get involved. We have answers! The following blog post will cover:

  • What is Juneteenth?

  • What current events are relevant to Juneteenth?

  • How is Juneteenth typically celebrated?

  • What will Juneteenth look like in 2020?

  • Is Osmosis celebrating Juneteenth?

  • How can I get involved in Juneteenth activities in 2020?

  • Additional resources for Juneteenth

What is Juneteenth?

On June 19, 1865, the Union army landed in Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War was over and enslaved people were now free. Though the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect over two years earlier (January 1863), Texas was the last Confederate state in which the proclamation was announced. Formerly enslaved people in Galveston celebrated, and the following year, a formal celebration was organized. June 19 came to be known as “Juneteenth,” and today it’s an annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth remains the largest celebration of African American freedom, resilience, heritage, and achievement.

What current events are relevant to Juneteenth?

While Juneteenth is an annual celebration, it’s important to take into account current events in our understanding of its history. In May 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a police officer killed George Floyd, a Black, unarmed man, by kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes. Floyd’s final words—”I can’t breathe”—have become a rallying cry for racial justice movements around the world.  

The video went viral and sparked intense international outrage and demands for justice. Though police brutality has dominated discourse around George Floyd’s death, protestors have also called for an end to systemic racism in all its forms. This is particularly relevant to the healthcare system, as the African American/Black population experiences significant disparities in access to care, chronic conditions, and preventative screenings. There are a broad range of potential underlying causes for these disparities, which are important for healthcare professionals to understand, explore, and address.

While we should always seek to combat injustice, Juneteenth is an excellent time to learn more about such racial disparities, work towards a just, prosperous future, and celebrate Black history.

How is Juneteenth typically celebrated?

Even though Juneteenth takes place on June 19, for many communities the entire month of June is marked with various jubilant celebrations, like family gatherings, picnics, parades, pageants, cookouts, historical reenactments, street fairs, rodeos, and educational activities. Juneteenth is also a time for personal self-reflection: individuals explore the history behind Juneteenth and optimistically look towards the future.

Osmosis illustration of people celebrating Juneteenth with a barbecue.

What will Juneteenth look like in 2020?

Of course, 2020 has been roiled by COVID-19 and an expanded awareness of racial injustice awareness of racial injustice in America. That makes Juneteenth 2020 particularly significant: not only will we likely be celebrating in socially distant ways, but the backdrop of current events may lend a somber tone to the festivities. Conversations that take place will definitely include discussions about systemic racism, police brutality and reform, and racial justice. 

Expect Juneteenth 2020 to be different in the following ways: many events will go virtual. People will wear masks at physical gatherings (especially indoors). Parades may be replaced by caravans. Current events, like the murder of George Floyd, will be at the forefront of discussion. Though these are new changes, they may endure for years to come. Remember to be present in such a historical moment!

Osmosis infographic showing how to stay safe in crowds during COVID-19.

Is Osmosis celebrating Juneteenth?

Yes! This year, Osmosis declared Juneteenth an official company holiday, to be observed every year moving forward. We’re encouraging our teammates to use this time off to reflect on current events, learn about the origins of racial violence in the US and how it has continued into the present, and to get involved in community efforts, whether that’s by supporting Black-owned businesses, creating/signing petitions, donating to charities, organizations, and bail funds, participating in workshops, or watching movies, TV shows and documentaries that explore the Black experience. 

For a more comprehensive list of Juneteenth activities, visit this document.

Osmosis illustration of medical students attending an anti-racist protest.

How can I get involved in Juneteenth activities in 2020?

Now that you’re up to speed, hopefully you're looking to get involved in some Juneteenth activities yourself! Here are some suggestions for participating in the festivities this year: 

  • Many Juneteenth events have gone virtual, so you can participate online! Check if your local celebrations have moved online, and be sure to sign up. 

  • If you plan to attend any physical gatherings, make sure to abide by physical distancing guidelines, wear a mask, and to plan ahead so you can protest safely. We’ve included a link to CDC guidelines in the Resources section below. 

  • You should also stay up-to-date on current events and take this opportunity, in the days leading up to Juneteenth, to learn more about systemic racism. 

  • Don’t forget to spread the word on social media (#Juneteenth2020)!

Finally, if you’re a healthcare professional, consider using this holiday to learn more about disparities in healthcare, and do some soul-searching about your unconscious biases (again, refer to our Resources section to learn more). Healthcare professionals serve their patients best when they are aware of cultural differences, and disparities that may affect a patient’s health and access to resources. Those who work with patients directly should also cultivate their listening skills: the better we understand each patient’s needs, concerns, and goals, the better we can help them achieve good health.


Additional resources for Juneteenth

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the following:

Organizations

White Coats For Black Lives

Black Lives Matter

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Resources

An Antiracist Reading List

Project Implicit (Implicit bias test)

Juneteenth.com

How to Protest Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic

American Civil Liberties Union: Racial Justice

CDC Guidelines: Gatherings and Community Events

Ideas for Getting Involved in Juneteenth 2020



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