Observed annually on June 19, Juneteenth is a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated on June 19, 1865, when more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas learned they were free — a full two months after the Civil War had ended and 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
For Kristin Hafford, patient and family engagement program coordinator at Akron Children’s, the holiday is an important time for celebration and reflection.
“It’s a time for our family and the larger community to reflect on the freedom of Black people,” she said. “While America was free in 1776, for many years Black people were excluded from this fundamental American experience.”
Kristin said she first heard of the holiday when she met her husband in college. They began celebrating Juneteenth as a holiday when they moved to Akron 13 years ago. These days, it’s their family tradition to attend community events as well as celebrate at their home, sometimes with extended family.
“Growing up where I lived, there wasn’t much talk about what Juneteenth was,” she said. “As I’ve gotten older and learned about historical events, I realized we needed to get more involved in celebrating Juneteenth and making sure our kids understood the significance of the holiday.”
While the holiday recognizes U.S. history, it’s also an opportunity to examine the present. Kristin said the significance of the day helps to provide additional context for the frequent current day conversations that she has with her children regarding racial justice and historical inequities.
“It’s important to connect our country’s past to circumstances we see today with our kids,” she said. “We have many conversations about injustice. They’re going to come into contact with all types of challenges, and we talk about how you can overcome those situations. This is a time to reflect on why it’s important, where we come from and where we’re going.”
Kristin is a part of the Akron Children’s Minority Employees and Allies Employee Resource Group (ERG), a group open to all employees at Akron Children’s, helping to shape a diverse and inclusive workplace.
“I’m excited to be a part of this ERG because I love to be a part of bringing change,” she said. “[The ERG] has provided an opportunity for me to connect with others in the organization who have a shared interest. It’s also provided a safe space for all members of the Akron Children’s family to talk about their experiences in life, even if it’s not work-related.”