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Atlanta Jews of Color Reflect on Juneteenth

Juneteenth (the 19th of June) commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and also is a celebration of African American culture. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1865. This is the second year that Juneteenth is an official federal U.S. holiday.

Atlanta Jews of Color Council will be co-hosting a local hybrid (in-person and Zoom) Juneteenth Celebration on June 17. It will center the voices of Jewish spiritual leaders of Color. All denominations and faiths are welcome to join for this cross community building experience to raise awareness about the multiplicity of Jewish identity. We’ll honor the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States through a Jewish lens. Services will be led by Rabbi Sandra Lawson, Rabbinical student Koach Baruch Frazier, Rabbi Joshua Lesser, and Victoria Raggs.

The in-person event will be held at The Distillery of Modern Art in Chamblee. The virtual event is free, but registration is required at Eventbrite.

We asked several local Jews of Color to reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth.

Jada Garrett is a consultant to Be’chol Lashon, an organization that strengthens Jewish identity by raising awareness about the ethnic, racial and cultural diversity of Jewish identity and experience.

Juneteenth is a reminder that the end of slavery was not about a moment in time but rather about a process of liberation. 157 years later, that process is still ongoing. As Jews who understand the power of the stories of the past, we need to learn from history and remain committed to changing the future.

Dr. Tarece Johnson, EdD serves on the Gwinnett County Board of Education. She is a womanist, entrepreneur, diversity and inclusion expert, poet, artist, author, activist, and advocate. This poem, “Juneteenth,” is from her book #ResilientHope

As we bask in the jubilation of freedom from slavery may we also reflect on the actions we need to take to continue to be FREE.

May we focus inwardly to accept and love ourselves. May we reach outwardly to authentically connect with one another and collaborate to build and maintain strong communities together.

May we deliberately seek to relearn our history to understand our truths and celebrate our contributions to the world. May we honor our ancestors and value our own beauty and glory.

May we reconnect with our motherland and rebirth the spirit of redemptive love, empathetic unity, purposeful peace, and resilient hope.

Victoria Raggs is Co-Founder & Executive Director of Atlanta Jews of Color Council. She is a cultural innovator, global justice strategist and consultant. Victoria also serves on the board of Jewish Family & Career Services.

To me, Juneteenth is a time for rejoicing and a time for our country to reckon with a very painful historical legacy that continues to impact our society today. Gaining a deeper historical analysis around this national holiday is useful for everyone experiencing true equity, justice, and liberation. The Jewish dimension of Juneteenth is that no people exist in isolation. Because our liberation is bound together by our shared humanity, no group is free until we all are free.

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