Why Juneteenth matters — in health care and beyond

A Black grandmother holds her grandchild as both smile, looking left out of the frame

Tukea Talbert is Chief Diversity Officer at UK HealthCare, tasked with overseeing the effort to promote and expand diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the entire enterprise.

Here, Talbert discusses the importance of Juneteenth. 

What is Juneteenth?

Sometimes also called Independence Day and/or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is recognized as the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the Confederate States of America. This information would not reach African Americans living in Texas until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas. The former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, song, dance and feasting.

Essentially Juneteenth (combination of the month of June and nineteenth) represents Black independence for those who identify as African American and were enslaved.

How is UK HealthCare recognizing Juneteenth?

UK and UK HealthCare recognize the Juneteenth holiday by officially acknowledging it as a university-paid holiday. The UK community fully embraces the importance of Juneteenth and what it represents.

Our efforts also include this summary and other activities to educate. It is crucial that team members understand the importance of this holiday, which includes its meaning and impact on African Americans.

The purpose of this Q&A is to educate and motivate others to appreciate the struggles of African Americans over the years. It is hard to reconcile matters when you do not acknowledge and understand them. It is key that people know that this is not just another day off, but an opportunity to reflect, learn, and demonstrate support and advocacy for change and social justice. 

Tukea Talbert, UK HealthCare's chief diversity officer, smiling while posed for a photo
Tukea Talbert

What does recognizing Juneteenth mean for UK HealthCare?

Recognition is key to reconciliation. Recognition is key to validation of the importance of this date and what it means to African Americans and their journey to social justice and inclusion.

Recognition by members of the UK Community is a critical first step to bigger and bolder actions for sustainable change in our community for social justice, health equity, and creating fair opportunities for all people to reach their highest potential in life and in health. 

Why is it important to recognize Juneteenth?

Recognition of Juneteenth is intentionally creating space to commemorate total Black freedom from the institution of slavery. It brings to the forefront an unpleasant and dark time in history, yet highlights the strength, faith, resilience and solidarity of the Black community.

Events scheduled throughout the month of June in honor of the holiday promote solidarity, advocacy, and celebration of this total freedom. While it reminds us of the past, it also demonstrates the hope of a better future that continues to evolve.

We must continue to act boldly, swiftly, and persistently for equity, social justice, and inclusive excellence.  

Why is Juneteenth important to you?

For me, it is important because it is a first step to a journey that is still underway. It is the first step to independence for ALL people, specifically African Americans.  

It was the end of an era of a type of systemic racism that was catastrophic and dehumanizing with longstanding impacts. Juneteenth causes me to look back and forward at the possibilities where no one has a dream deferred because of their race, ethnicity, sex, gender expression/identity, sexual orientation, religion or nationality.

Recognizing this painful past that lasted for centuries is part of healing and moving forward. It holds space to allow all of us to commemorate the ending of the establishment of slavery – something that never should have existed.

My hope is that as a people, we can continue to be inspired to ensure social justice for all people and exceed the realm of possibilities imagined by our forefathers more than a century ago when they discovered their freedom.

Our efforts in this space must continue because there is still opportunity to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure social justice and equity for all. Juneteenth for me is a time to reflect but also a time to project, act, and DREAM about what can and should be.  

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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