For Jasmine Harvey, Juneteenth is a day not just to celebrate Black independence, but to honor those whose sacrifices helped the day become a reality. Harvey, a Viasat project planner and chairwoman of the Black Professional Alliance (BPA) Employee Resource Group in Duluth, GA, is dedicated to helping others understand and appreciate Juneteenth.
“There was a time when my ancestors were oppressed and didn’t have freedom,” she said. “But they fought for it, and that’s part of the reason I and other African Americans are free today.”
Six years ago, Harvey helped coordinate a Juneteenth celebration in her hometown of Columbus, GA that continues to this day. At Viasat’s Duluth, GA office, she’s working to do the same.
“My purpose here at Viasat is to help more and more people become educated about the significance of Juneteenth,” she said. “I hope that will set the bar for other individuals and persuade them to do the same.”
The day, which blends the words “June” and “nineteenth,” is officially celebrated on June 19. On that day in 1865, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger went to Galveston, Texas to tell enslaved people that slavery had been abolished.
President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862 – almost three years before Gordon made his announcement in Galveston. The Emancipation Proclamation declared freedom for Confederate slaves on Jan. 1, 1863, but that edict wasn’t absolute, and many slave owners did not recognize it. In areas isolated from Union troops – including Texas – slavery continued, and even grew. Gordon’s June 19 proclamation, issued with 2,000 Army soldiers at his side, was for many the start of freedom.
Also called Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is today celebrated much like the Fourth of July.
In 2021, President Biden signed a bill making the day a national holiday.
Harvey has become increasingly passionate about Juneteenth over the years.
“I didn’t grow up knowing much about what Juneteenth was,” she said. “Once I started reading, I understood the significance and wanted to do more to help others understand.
“For African Americans, it’s just like Independence Day, so it definitely should be a holiday.”
The Duluth campus celebration honored both Juneteenth and Pride Month, and was jointly hosted by the BPA and the Pride Alliance employee groups. It included food and games, as well as history and trivia on both Juneteenth and Pride Month.
“The goal is not to just have a celebration, but to educate and influence people about the meaning behind Juneteenth,” Harvey said.
In Denver, employees will celebrate Juneteenth and Pride Month during a June 23 picnic.
Both campuses are also hosting sock drives. Socks collected in Duluth will be sent to an LQBTQ+ shelter in which the majority of guests are African American.
“I appreciate the fact that Viasat is allowing us to celebrate Juneteenth at the workplace, and that it is being acknowledged and supported,” Harvey said. “Event planning is always challenging. But ha