What I learned celebrating Juneteenth in Salem, Oregon

Raymond D. White
4 min readJul 4, 2023
Photo by Derek Lamar on Unsplash

June 19, 2023, marked a remarkable day in history as communities across the nation came together to commemorate Juneteenth. This annual event holds immense significance, honoring the emancipation of black enslaved individuals in the United States. As we reflect on this momentous occasion, it is vital to recognize the progress made and the work that still lies ahead.

I recently reflected on some Juneteenth events that occurred in my city, Salem, Oregon. You can watch that reflection here:

In this article, we delve into the power of understanding history, building relationships, and embracing personal responsibility to drive positive change in our society.

Understanding Our Past: A Catalyst for Change

Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the struggles endured by Black Americans throughout history. It was on this day in 1865 that the news of emancipation reached the enslaved individuals in Texas, marking their liberation. Acknowledging our historical roots and comprehending the obstacles faced by those who came before us is pivotal in shaping a more equitable future.

Growing up, I was not as aware of or celebrated Juneteenth. I knew Black communities across the United States took a moment to gather, eat, and collectively celebrate their Blackness. Coming to age as an adult, with a family on my own, I am excited for the opportunity to engage in more events that discusses the significance of this historic day.

By immersing ourselves in the narratives of the past, we gain valuable insights that allow us to avoid repeating past mistakes. Exploring literature and resources that shed light on historical experiences empowers us to challenge discrimination and oppression that persist to this day. A thorough understanding of history equips us to advocate for change, ensuring that the journey toward equality continues.

Building Bridges through Relationships

Creating meaningful connections with individuals impacted by our actions is another crucial aspect of effecting change. By engaging in open dialogue and actively listening to their experiences, we can foster empathy and build a stronger sense of community.

While attending these events, I was able to witness the vast joy of Black people in one place. I was able to see old friends and meet some new ones. We were able to talk about our experiences in the city and discuss what we could do to strengthen our relationships as a Black community.

Taking the time to connect with our neighbors, co-workers, and fellow citizens provides invaluable opportunities to learn and grow. By understanding their perspectives and the challenges they face, we can work together to dismantle systemic barriers and cultivate inclusive environments. Genuine relationships enable us to shape policies, strategies, and initiatives that prioritize the well-being and progress of all individuals.

Embracing Personal Responsibility: Be the Change

Ultimately, the responsibility to drive change lies within each of us. We possess unique gifts, positions, and perspectives that, when leveraged effectively, can make a profound impact on society. By actively embracing this responsibility, we become catalysts for positive transformation.

We have to practice understanding our own identity and how it plays a role in creating culture change. Self-awareness is key in our development and relationship building.

Being present and actively participating in our workspaces, communities, and environments is crucial. By taking an active role in our surroundings, we can bridge gaps and establish connections that contribute to the greater good. We must recognize that our individual actions and choices have the power to shape the future. Together, we can create a society where economic empowerment and equal opportunities are accessible to all.

How will you celebrate Juneteenth next year?

Juneteenth stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of black Americans and their journey toward freedom. This annual celebration encourages us to reflect on our history, foster relationships, and embrace personal responsibility. By understanding the struggles of the past, building connections with those affected by our actions, and recognizing our own power to effect change, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society. Let us commemorate Juneteenth not only as a historical event but also as a call to action — a call to uphold the values of freedom, justice, and unity for generations to come.

By the way! I wrote a book to help leaders become social justice advocates within their communities!

“Advocacy in Action” is a practical guide for individuals and leaders on the journey to an anti-racist/anti-bias society. The book provides practical actions that readers can take in their current roles to create inclusive communities.

The author, Raymond D. White, challenges readers to reframe their mindset to a learning posture that is continuously improving, shedding expectations of perfection and seeing this as a stepping stone on their journey.

The book breaks down barriers to joining anti-racist work, develops tactical ways to act, encourages readers on their journey, and provides reflective questions to explore how they can put what they’ve learned into practice.

With a focus on building relationships, analyzing internal and intercultural circles, and seeking accountability, “Advocacy in Action” is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to make a positive impact in their community.

You can order a signed copy of the book here: ⁠⁠⁠⁠https://raymondwhite.net/shop/aiabook⁠

Raymond White loves to engage, equip, and encourage emerging leaders and their efforts to develop thriving teams. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter!

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Raymond D. White

I collaborate with leaders to integrate DEI into their people & culture strategies. Need help developing a belonging team culture? Let’s chat!