Forum Philly's part in highlighting the cultural legacy of Juneteenth:
A Look Into the Past and Present Through the Power of Education
By: Isa Wilson
Grab out your music speakers and open the doors to that hot summer air, because it’s almost coming up to that time of year again! No, it’s not tax season, and it’s definitely not the Fourth of July or the winter holidays either! It’s a special time of year that commemorates a historical event that is often tragically ignored within a lot of American schools. June 19th or Juneteenth for short is the day when in 1865, right around the time the Civil War ended, over 250,000 African-Americans were officially notified that they were all freed from slavery just six months after Congress passed the 13th amendment which officially abolished slavery in any US territory. Since then, it has been celebrated as a day when African-Americans were no longer viewed as property, but as human beings who had rights as American citizens.
Although African-Americans faced further hardship and the cruel treatment of a predominantly white society thanks to the Jim Crow laws afterward, Juneteenth has been regarded as a day of hope for everyone who is familiar with the history of that day. However, thanks to an education system where most of the history books students go into great detail about white historical figures and colonization, Juneteenth is greatly overlooked and glossed over, especially when young students are taught about the American Civil War. Despite Juneteenth being recognized as a national federal holiday in 2021, not too many people are aware of the historical significance to understand not only why it became a federal holiday, but also why it took almost 160 years to be cemented as one.
Forum Philly will kick off the holiday by organizing their annual Juneteenth School's Initiative during the month of June and hosting a Honors Program & Reception on the 19th of June at the Penn Museum. During the reception, not only will attendees be able to get a reminder of why this holiday has great significance within American history, but also why its stories should continue to be passed down to each upcoming generation. As such, another noteworthy event will also be celebrated at the Penn Museum: Forum Philly’s initiative to involve 50 schools across Southeast Pennsylvania academic districts in various educational programs to empower kids to explore and teach each other about the history of Juneteenth as well as how it continues to impact American society today. Despite it taking place outside of the standard K-12 academic year, Forum Philly will never shy away from the opportunity to educate the public about Juneteenth along with all of the events that precede and follow that date..
At various schools including but limited to The City School, Boys' Latin & Kipp West Philadelphia are taking part in activities such as: art activities, dance celebrations, assemblies, discussions and more! These presentations will be celebrated at the White House and showcased at the Penn Museum reception this month, (June 2023).
For several holidays, commercialization has been a big part of celebration, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and others as well. However, Juneteenth under no circumstances is meant to be an advertisement. Instead, it is meant to be a celebration of a new era in 1865, where people were officially recognized as human beings and not as livestock. Unfortunately, despite the Jim Crow laws being overturned one hundred years after the first Juneteenth, many African-Americans still face prejudice and systemic racism, including incidents of police brutality ending in the deaths of countless young Black teens and adults as well as discrimination in the medical field, particularly against pregnant Black women. As such, it is important to educate young children not only as to why Juneteenth is a significant event in American history, but also why its legacy is greatly overlooked in the modern United States. That’s where Forum Philly’s district-wide initiative comes in and that is to reach out to kids all across schools in Philadelphia and to pass them the stories of Juneteenth’s impact, especially when its history emphasizes the most important drive in all of humanity, regardless of skin color or culture: community. Juneteenth is not only about reminding each new generation about America’s history of enslavement, but also reminding people of all different backgrounds that no matter what happens, as long as one remembers that they carry their community with them wherever they go, nothing is impossible when it comes to fighting for equality and justice.
If you support this initiative, do not hesitate to get involved with Forum Philly. Sponsorships, volunteer opportunities & attendees are still needed. Please email email@example.com if interested.