Reflections on Juneteenth

Eight members of the HashiCorp Blacksmiths’ employee resource group share how they spent Juneteenth this year, and reflect on what they learned.

In honor of Juneteenth, eight members of the HashiCorp Blacksmiths’ employee resource group share the wide variety of ways they celebrated the Juneteenth weekend, and what they learned.

Chip Vaughn, Fallon Petty, Quianna Keenan, Ciara Clements, Gerald Dagher, Christopher Wyatt, Matthew Conway, Chelsea Shaw

»Chip Vaughn, Senior Support Engineer II — Consul, Frederick, MD

My son and I attended the Suns of Re-Awakening 5th Annual Juneteenth Celebration at the historic Mullinix Park in Frederick, MD, on Saturday, June 18th.

Despite the intimate setting of the event (Mullinix Park is a small playground in downtown Frederick), you could sense the warmth in the air as dozens of Frederick's African-American community came out to celebrate Juneteenth by listening to the speakers, enjoying the catered Jamaican food, listening to the live music, and just being with one another in joyful communion. My 2-year-old son had a great time running up to the front of the music stage and dancing to the beat of the congo drums.

Speaking to the organizers of the event, Suns of Re-Awakening, I learned the history of Mullinix Park, which was constructed in the 1920s so that African-American residents had a recreational space of their own — they were segregated out of nearby Baker Park. I also learned how the Suns of Re-Awakening, formed in 2013 to address the many issues in the African-American community in Frederick, has been petitioning the City of Frederick for five years to have the park renovated and returned to the African-American community.

»Fallon Petty, Senior Corporate Recruiter — San Antonio, TX

My husband and I flew to Washington, DC, to go to Pharrell's Something in the Water Festival celebrating art, culture, and music from June 17-19, 2022. Pharrell hosts the Festival each year during Juneteenth to recognize that "something" has been flowing through the country's soil for over 400 years.

I learned that Pharrell started the festival in his hometown of Virginia Beach, VA, in 2019. Pharrell also partners with nonprofits during the Festival, including STEM for Bugs and Tech Equity Collective, a Google Initiative. These partners are helping to bridge gaps for Black and Latinx high schoolers and entrepreneurs; in tech, healthcare, and consumer products startups.

Pharrell spoke throughout the Festival from stage to stage, expressing how Juneteenth is an annual celebration of Black liberation. Promises of freedom have not yet been fully realized in the United States and work still needs to be done to create an equitable society. Nobody is free until everybody is free.

»Quianna Keenan, Talent Development Specialist — Stratford, New Jersey

I spent Juneteenth weekend teaching my 7-year-old about the importance of Juneteenth. We read the book “Opal Lee and What It Means To Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth”, by Alice Faye Duncan. My daughter had so many questions, including why she did not hear about Juneteenth at school.

We also attended the Juneteenth Block Party in Philadelphia. It was a great event! We explored the African American Museum in Philadelphia, danced to great music, and enjoyed exploring the different vendors. We ended the weekend watching Juneteenth: A Nick News Special.

It was great having a conversation with my daughter about Juneteenth and teaching her the importance of the holiday. I learned about Juneteenth as an adult so the opportunity to share this knowledge with my child and celebrate with her was important to me.

»Ciara Clements, Support Engineer, Vault Federal — Baltimore, MD

I had dinner at Leah and Louise, a two-year-old Black-owned restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina. They had a three-course Juneteenth menu and the whole table participated. First course: Stone soup or house salad. Second course: Leah's cabbage, river chips, or super troopers. Third Course: Oxtail and grits, fried trout, and cherry glazed turkey wing. Cocktail: F.U.B.U — Made with Uncle Nearest 1884 whiskey. The cooking and vibes at the dinner were phenomenal.

To commemorate Juneteenth, people can start by spending money at Black-owned businesses and spreading the word about them. Social media can also get the word out about Juneteenth events and activities, so don't be afraid to travel a bit to the next town over — and bring friends.

»Gerald Dagher, Product Manager — Fort Lauderdale, FL

My wife, my children (nine and one years old), and I attended a Juneteenth craft show, which featured several local Black artists and crafters. We watched a few documentaries with our 9-year-old, and then ended up at the Fort Lauderdale Pride Parade. That was a completely different experience -— it was interesting to see and hear the unique stories from Black members of the LGBTQ+ community. We wrapped the weekend up by spending time with my grandparents and listening to the differences in their experience growing up in Jamaica vs. coming to the U.S.

To get the most out of Juneteenth, take a moment to take it all in. There are so many stories to hear and to learn from. Sometimes, you don't realize how beautiful a painting truly is because you've been taught to see it only from a specific perspective.

»Christopher Wyatt, Strategic Enterprise Sales - Redondo Beach, CA

I spent the weekend reading about Juneteenth facts and history. I learned that the feeling of being enslaved 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed must have been a mixture of overwhelming feelings and helplessness, not to mention excitement, shock, and utter confusion.

If I were in that situation, I would have experienced an emotionally charged blend of confusion and relief, leaving me completely drained. Long-awaited change was finally delivered, and then delayed again. Think of how life could have been different if only you’d known you were free a year before, let alone two years. Wow! Your entire world would have been different in so many ways. I'm empathetic to those that came before me and I feel for them and the true struggle they went through.

Imagine living a life where you were owned by other humans who used you as a tool and treated you like an animal. Imagine the life you have today. I challenge everyone to think on that while sitting down for three minutes.

»Matthew Conway, Senior Security Engineer — San Francisco, CA

I visited Red Bay Coffee's new Grand Avenue cafe location, right next to the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland, Calif., for its opening day on Juneteenth. With cold brew coffees in hand on a warm and sunny day, my wife and I walked around the Lake Merritt area enjoying music and stopping to talk with vendors who set up to celebrate the day.

Then we went into Alkali Rye bottle shop, a queer woman of color-owned business also on Grand Ave. Jessica Moncada-Konte, the owner of Alkali Rye, is actually Red Bay founder Keba Konte's daughter. Two generations of great Black business owners side by side on Grand Ave.

We were pretty hungry after all that, so we headed down to support Black-owned Burmese restaurant, Teni East Kitchen. It felt good to eat well and support local businesses at the same time.

I felt the joy around Juneteenth celebrations in a way I haven't before. The day means something tremendous and you could see it on everyone's faces. I was glad to be there, I felt so welcome, and I am looking forward to next year. Look at what events take place in your area on Juneteenth, and mark your calendar now to make sure you show up and show love and support. Don't be shy!

»Chelsea Shaw, Engineering Lead for Vault UI — Canyon Lake, TX

I spent the day reading "South to America" by Imani Perry and journaling.

I took a step back this year to understand where Juneteenth lives in our country's history. I learned that Juneteenth should be a reminder to celebrate the wins along the way, because the road to liberation is long. I also am learning more about how the issues our country is facing today can be linked back to the way our country was born, in the soil of violence, bloodshed, and white supremacy. We will not be able to overcome our current struggles until that reality is acknowledged by every American, most importantly white folks like me.

I urge everyone to participate in Juneteenth celebrations with an open heart and share in the joy of freedom won through struggle.

The views expressed on this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of HashiCorp.

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