What does it mean to be free?

What does it mean to be free?

June 23, 2020 | By Jen Higgins-Newman, BHFH Program Manager 

Friday was Juneteenth — the celebration of the freeing of enslaved people and the formal ending of racial chattel slavery. June 19, 1865 was not the day that President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation (that was in 1863), but rather, the day that the news made it to the last informed of their freedom in Texas, two years later. 

This holiday has been celebrated by African American communities for more than 100 years. Today, it’s recognized by 47 states as an official state holiday or observance. 

On Friday, residents gathered for a celebration of Juneteenth, created and facilitated by residents Elise, Jeff, and Vickie. These resident organizers made more than 18 dishes, prepared educational programming including podcasts, music, and poetry, and asked us the queries: 

What does it mean to be free? What freedoms do you take for granted? What can you do to work for greater liberty in America?

The end of slavery wasn’t the end of the struggle for freedom for black people in America. Over the past few weeks, we have yet again seen evidence of this with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and more. Celebrating Juneteenth is an important moment to reflect on our history as well as on what our role is in advancing racial justice here and now. 

Here is the list of resources that Elise made for our event.

In Light and community, 


Photo: The kick-off of our Juneteenth celebration with food, education, and a call for contributions to the Massachusetts Bail Fund.