President's Perspective Blog

Mike’s Monday Message Takeover: Freedom Song

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Juneteenth

"If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” ― Toni Morrison

In June the nation celebrates Juneteenth, Caribbean American Heritage, and African American Music Appreciation Month. Caribbean American Heritage Month celebrates the rich diverse culture, and contributions of Caribbean Americans. America’s founding father, Alexander Hamilton, General Colin Powell (former US Secretary of State), the Hon. Shirley Chisholm (the first Black woman to run as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency), Rihanna (singer, major fashion and cosmetic influencer addressing diversity disparities, and 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year recipient), and Harry Belafonte (a performer, human rights activist during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, and close confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr.), are a mere sampling of the rich legacy of Caribbean American immigrants that have dramatically shaped and influenced culture, addressed injustice, and increased diversity across the Americas.  

June 19th commemorates Juneteenth, also referred to as Freedom or Jubilee Day. In 1865 Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the emancipation of African American slaves, even though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed two and a half years prior. Over time, Juneteenth has evolved into a celebration of African American heritage, culture, and achievements.

Many African Americans have Caribbean roots with historic experiences that are interconnected within the African diaspora across the Americas. Therefore, the recognition of both Juneteenth and Caribbean American Heritage Month draws attention to the broader understanding and celebration of African and Caribbean heritage in the United States, beyond the Middle Passage. This heritage is also recognized when celebrating African American Music Appreciation Month, created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. It brings attention to the artistic expression of African American history, stories, culture, and experiences. Nina Simon’s Wish I Knew How It Would Be to Be Free expresses the human spirit’s universal desire to pursue and achieve equitable access, opportunity, happiness, and freedom as our authentic selves.

Below are a few suggestions on how through philanthropy you can intentionally celebrate these observances in a meaningful way, during the month of June and throughout the year.

  1. Educate yourself by taking a deeper dive in understanding the history, significance, and impact of all three observances.
  2. Support Black Owned Business, nonprofits, programs, educational initiatives, and organizations that promote racial justice, equity, and address systemic inequalities.
  3.  Volunteer your time and talent.
  4. Promote scholarships and grant opportunities that are diverse.
  5. Engage in honest, open, and respectful conversations that challenge biases and inspire results driven change.
  6. Be creative in utilizing your platform to encourage equitable philanthropic engagement.
  7. Research, understand, and collaborate for positive change. Actively listen and share stories with cultural sensitivity, empathy, and respect.
  8. Be present, and attentive.

If you have any questions about these celebrations, or any other IDEA initiatives, please feel free to email me at othalene.lawrence@afpglobal.org. I’d love to hear from you.

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