Juneteenth: A Message from President & CEO, Loria Yeadon

Last updated: June 28, 2021, at 9:33 a.m. PT

Originally published: June 18, 2021, at 7:46 a.m. PT

Celebrate Juneteenth Flag

Dear Y Community, 

Juneteenth is known as Freedom Day, or Jubilee Day. This American holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, proclaiming that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free. This declaration came almost two-and-a-half years after the abolishment of slavery.

Juneteenth, a holiday in Washington state and now a national holiday signed into law by President Biden on June 17, 2021, celebrates a belated liberation for Black people in America and gives us a reason to pause and reflect on the liberties and freedoms promised to all in our great country, that are yet to be fully realized by many who are furthest from opportunity. We have come a long way since that 1865 proclamation, and I am the evidence. I represent my ancestors’ wildest dream. Yet, lingering impacts of slavery remain and are manifest in systemic racism that is prevalent in our world today.

Change is happening, but we still see oppressive practices in many institutions from real estate restrictive covenants and health care access and outcomes to our criminal justice system and voting laws, where Blacks and other marginalized people are further disadvantaged. Continued change and progress are possible if we learn from our history and commit to causing a new legacy together for a better us.

Creating a new legacy for our future and unlearning these oppressive, institutional practices will take intentional effort to combat systemic racism and disrupt it at its roots. Juneteenth is a time to celebrate a pivotal moment in our emancipation and liberation, while recognizing there’s more to do to fully achieve freedom for all. Weaving the threads of equity and justice into everything we do is core to our mission and equity statement at the YMCA of Greater Seattle.

Emboldened by our community of support, we are continuing our critical work through our Equity & Justice Center of Excellence. Through this center, we are improving our programs, rebuilding our systems, training our staff, and creating community extended learning opportunities to advance equity and justice for all. This vital work begins with ourselves as we build the future and legacy we want for our children. 

For many in the Black community, Juneteenth is bittersweet. Many will celebrate this day for the ideals and hopes that freedom represents, while knowing that true freedom will only come when we disrupt systemic racism and truly live our nation’s creed of liberty and justice for all. This is the work that must be done to fully realize the core tenets of the perfect nation envisioned by our forefathers at its inception.

As we commemorate Juneteenth, we remember the deferred joy brought to many on this day in 1865, and we re-commit ourselves to the critical work necessary to achieve equity and justice for all so that the joys of freedom deferred for many can be savored by all. 
As you reflect and celebrate Juneteenth, consider getting outdoors and enjoying the free day at Washington state parks with family and friends.

In gratitude and community,

Loria B. Yeadon
President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Seattle