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Juneteenth reflections: Jihan Owens-Tyler

Jihan Owens (Source: Provided)

Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way that things are.

It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still much work to do.” As our former President Barack Obama so eloquently stated, I do not look at Juneteenth as an ending, but more as a small win in a long-standing battle.

Juneteenth 2023: Local reflections

One United Lancaster asked several Black community leaders and advocates to share their thoughts on Juneteenth. Click the links to read each author’s essay:

Unfortunately, this history, my history, regarding Juneteenth was never taught to me in school, but I am glad my children and all children will learn about it. 

I view Juneteenth more as a representation of the changes to come. Even after June 19th, 1865, many of my people were still enslaved. And although we have made significant strides, there still is much to be done.

All 50 states do not even observe this federal holiday. As a country, we have to break the chains stifling Black children, families, our education, and overall value in this world.

There are several agents of change fighting as allies; however, until this is an issue for all people, it will continue to be an uphill fight.

If the country had been more united and communicative back in the 1800s, there would have been no need for Juneteenth. Texas would have been aware and aligned with the president and rest of the country. However, with the current state of our country, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

Today our country is imploding, based on hate, difference of opinions, values, and lack of empathy. Florida’s recent negligence of Black American history made headlines, in addition to their attempts to ban books and oppress other communities. We cannot overlook these injustices in our push for equality.

My aunt always said, “You gotta go through to get through,” and that could not be more applicable for our country. With the continuous and prevalent disregard for Black lives (men, women, and children), we have to call it what it is. As a proud Black woman, I cannot expect anyone else to care more about my people than I do. We must care about and love one another unconditionally in order to set the precedence for others.

I am happy to see that Lancaster is growing toward inclusion. I was blessed to have strong parents, grandparents and great-grandparents that instilled self-love and admiration of being Black in my siblings and me.

We were also taught all of our history, even the tough parts. But I know this was not everyone’s experience, which makes the positive changes more impactful.
There is more representation, visibility, and advocacy for Black people in our area than I have ever seen. But is it enough? It is important we all consider what we can do to further extend our reach.

I am a firm believer in proactivity and being solution focused. We all have gifts and passions that can be utilized toward this fight for equity. Are you ready to work and become part of the solution? Asé.