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Celebrating Juneteenth

NAACP representative speaks to crowd at Juneteenth celebration

Francine Nicolson, NAACP O’Fallon branch president, explains the history and plan for the future of Juneteenth while speaking at the 375th Medical Group clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 19, 2020. “Today Juneteenth commemorates African-Americans’ freedom and emphasizes education and achievement,” Nicholson said. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead)

Woman speaking to crowd at Juneteenth celebration.

Karen L White, 375th Medical Support Squadron civilian personnel liaison, speaks with attendees about discrimination at a Juneteenth celebration at the 375th Medical Group clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 19, 2020. White highlighted how discrimination can occur in any situation from any individual. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead)

Individuals speaking to crowd at Juneteenth celebration.

From left to right, Staff Sgt. Bryan Howard, 375th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician and Capt. Mariah Chambers, 375th Medical Operations Squadron internal medicine physician, talk about personal stories of experiencing discrimination during an open forum at the 375th Medical Group Clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 19, 2020. The Juneteenth celebration gathered individuals of different backgrounds to help educate service members on the history of Juneteenth and talk about personal experiences with discrimination. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead)

Educational texts on display at Juneteenth celebration.

Educational text sit atop a desk at the Juneteenth celebration hosted at the 375th Medical Group clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 19, 2020. The educating was the primary focus of the all-day Juneteenth celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead)

Individuals standing next to one another for a privilege exercise during Juneteenth celebration.

Attendees participate in privilege exercises at a Juneteenth at the 375th Medical Group clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 19, 2020. Privilege exercises provided attendees with the opportunity to understand the intricacies of privilege and to explore the ways that one might enjoy privileges based upon being members of socioeconomic group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Not many people are familiar with Gen. Gordon Granger, but without him June 19, 1865, wouldn’t be such an important day in African American history. It was on this day that the Union Army officer arrived in Galveston, Texas, with his fellow soldiers to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. A day that would later be known as Juneteenth.

The 375th Medical Group gathered to celebrate Juneteenth, on June 19, 2020, at the Deltegan Auditorium on Scott Air Force Base.

Organized by four Airmen from the 375th Medical Operations Squadron, the inspiration for the event stemmed from a yearning to educate their peers on black American history, said Senior Airman Mikayla Mohead, 375th MDOS, Scott Family Medicine administrator, one of the event coordinators.

“I would like for people to understand that history books and 28 days in February doesn’t do Black History justice.” said Mohead. “It takes a lot of personal research to receive the proper education.”

“Black history is American history, and we want to educate our fellow Airmen on this iconic day,” added Senior Airman Shantequa Denson, 375th MDOS, pediatric aerospace medical technician and event coordinator.

The event highlighted African American history and featured open discussion panels with African American service members. Attendees were able to learn about and experience African American culture, such as music, as well as take part in privilege exercises. Guest speaker Francine Nicolson, NAACP O’Fallon branch president, spoke on the vast history and hopes for the future of Juneteenth.

“Today Juneteenth commemorates African Americans’ freedom and emphasizes education and achievement,” Nicholson said. “It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and planning for the future….There’s something for everyone of every race to engage in.”

Although Juneteenth is an important part of history, many individuals may have never heard of it. Juneteenth has been celebrated as a holiday within the African-American community since 1866. The Emancipation Proclamation officially freed all those enslaved in the rebelling southern states in 1863, however it wasn’t enforced in areas without the presence of the Union Army. June 19 marks the day Granger, commanding the Union Army in Galveston, formally announced the order as in effect in Texas, the last part of the defeated Confederacy to learn of the order and have it consistently enforced.

“I didn’t know what Juneteenth was before this, which highlights why it’s so important,” said Col. Jeffery Alder, 375th Medical Group commander. “It’s an educational day that will be good for our staff and help bring everyone together.”

In these times it is especially important to recall Juneteenth, not just as a day of freedom, but as a day of diversity and education, said Nicolson.

Mohead and her fellow event coordinators at the 375th MDG are hopeful that they can continue to educate their fellow Airmen with such events.