380th AEW Airmen celebrate Juneteenth

  • Published
  • By TSgt Jeffrey Grossi
  • 380 AEW

The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s Juneteenth and Cultural Heritage Committees collaborated to organize a Juneteenth celebration, June 19, 2022, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The event welcomed more than 300 service members and civilians to take part in a celebration of independence for all through food, song, games and education.

Juneteenth marks the date of actualized independence from the oppression of slavery, which lasted more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was initially issued, and the freedom to honor the idea that every person truly is created equal.

The celebration began with the song, “Lift Every Voice” played on saxophone by Senior Airmen Clarence Bennet, a force protection escort assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. A song of liberation and affirmation, it speaks to the history of the journey of African Americans, and for many Africans in the diaspora who struggled through to get to a place of hope, according to Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP.

“Today, we answer the question, ‘What is Juneteenth?’, said Tech. Sgt. Johnathan C. Brown, the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron’s unit deployment manager and head of ADAB’s Juneteenth committee. “Juneteenth refers to the date, June 19, 1865, when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, two years after its establishment in 1863. On that day, freed slaves were able to celebrate their emancipation through dance, food, family, and music. This celebration is a commemoration of the resiliency built upon the shoulders of many generations. So, today is not only a celebration, but a time to reflect. Reflect upon those who support you, reflect upon your sacrifices and those who have sacrificed for you, most importantly reflect upon yourself. We are all individual fingers that form a fist of empowerment.”

Following the opening comments, Maj. Greg Speirs, the 380th AEW Staff Judge Advocate, led in an educational narration of major historical events, legislation, amendments and judicial proceedings in United States history – including the Declaration of Independence, readings directly from the holdings of the Dred Scott Case, and Plessy v. Ferguson. Attendees were also informed that more than 1 million African Americans served in World War I and World War II, only to return to the same “separate but equal” status, until a series of Acts from lawmakers and landmark Civil Rights cases of the 1950s and 1960s – desegregated schools, restaurants, movie theaters and public facilities, and legalized interracial marriage. The Juneteenth National Independence Day event culminated with remarks both reflecting and celebrating the long road to the creation of our nations’ newest federal holiday, as well as the work yet ahead.

Airmen were also invited to perform “spoken word,” an oral poetic performance art; to compete in games such as double Dutch, a jumping game played with two skipping ropes swung in opposite directions; line dancing; and an aerobic step class, which was held earlier in the week.