On June 17, President Biden signed into law the Juneteenth Holiday to occur every year on June 19. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 in which federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, took control of the state, and officially emancipated enslaved African Americans.1 Despite the Emancipation Proclamation being signed into law in 1863, many slave owners moved to Texas to continue keeping slaves.1
June 19th was the official last day that slaves were kept in the United States.
The following year, citizens celebrated their freedom with prayer services and song and dance ceremonies. Celebrations have continued across the United States into the 21st century and typically include prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, family gatherings and picnics, and festivals with music, food, and dancing.2
2021 is the first official year that the Juneteenth Holiday is legal, and many cities across the country held festivals and parades in celebration. This being the first year following the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it was important that celebrants remained socially distant and kept healthy practices in mind while celebrating. Healthcare organizations took this opportunity to set up booths at many of these celebrations in order to educate the public on current trends in healthcare, hand out masks, and even distribute vaccines.
Here are some of the ways in which healthcare was represented at Juneteenth celebrations nationwide:
Battle Creek, MI
At the Juneteenth festival in Battle Creek, Michigan, attendees had the opportunity to visit the walk-in vaccine clinic where they could receive the COVID-19 vaccine or simply ask questions about efficacy or side effects.3
The Battle Creek Juneteenth Family Day Celebration Committee partnered with Bronson Healthcare, Population Health Alliance and Kellogg Community College to provide the free clinic, and the Pfizer vaccine was offered to attendees age 12 years and older.3
“We’re going to have some ambassadors here, some vaccine ambassadors here who were hesitant themselves, and are now trying to let people know about what they experienced and how they can do it too,” said Lynn Ward Gray, a member of the Battle Creek Juneteenth Family Day Celebration Committee. Administrators hope that the clinic can provide the necessary information to attendees who may not be as educated as they should be.3
Attendees at the Juneteenth in the Park celebration in Virginia had the opportunity to be screened for a mammogram, given by Chesapeake Regional Healthcare (CRH). Mammograms were available on a first-come, first-served basis, and for uninsured or underinsured women, funds from Chesapeake Regional Health Foundation’s Bra-ha-ha© helped in covering the cost.4
Health and financial experts were on-site to help educate guests on their physical, mental and financial wellness. In addition to free mammograms, first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses were available.4
The theme of the Juneteenth celebration at William Land Park in Sacramento was “Getting serious about our health.” Organizers of the event worked with the Sierra Health Foundation and Sutter Health to offer mental health workshops and free COVID-19 vaccinations.5
Norton Healthcare hosted a Wellness Fair as part of the city-wide Juneteenth celebration. which offered health and wellness services along with job opportunity information. The Fair, which took place from noon to 3 p.m. at the Big Four Lawn at the Waterfront Park, attendees had the opportunity to receive COVID-19 vaccines, prevention screenings like prostate screenings, blood pressure, glucose testing and body mass index at no additional cost.6
During the event, Norton Healthcare also offered tips for nutrition, exercise and how to make physical activity fun for families.6
Augusta Health administered the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines at the Frontier Culture Museum’s Juneteenth celebration.7
Many of the nurses working the vaccine site felt the importance of educating the community about COVID-19 vaccines and bringing the vaccine to those who may otherwise not go out of their way to receive it.
“We’re just trying to get out there to get people vaccinated, where they’re comfortable with their families. Going where we need to go,” Angela Kuremsky, R.N. with Augusta Health, said. “Some people have fear of healthcare, [or the ]inability to have transport[ation] to us, so we’re coming to them to come out into the community, both in the medically underserved, the vulnerable communities, those without reliable internet, reliable transportation, we’re trying to come to them,” Kuremsky added.7
Health Educator with Community Outreach at Augusta Health Gayle Shultz says going to community events is important for vaccination efforts. “When we’re able to go to people who want the vaccines, and they are accessible, people are more likely to trust the vaccine and to trust our efforts,” Shultz said.7
Juneteenth festival organizers in the North Tulsa community used the celebrations as an opportunity to spread health awareness and resources among the citizens. Blue Cross Blue Shield hosted the Black Health Counts event as part of the Juneteenth festival. The family wellness event brought educational awareness and health services to the North Tulsa community.8
The vaccines at the event were distributed at no charge. They were given out if the Caring Van sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The van offered Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines.
One of the attendees of the event, Camillia Young-Walker, says “some of these families, they just don’t have the luxury of going into a doctor’s office and taking care of a really high bill and expenses are super high right now. No one has insurance, how else are we supposed to get care or get acknowledgment to what’s going on in our communities if there’s no healthcare there.”8
Keisha Metoyer, one of the festival vendors, agrees and says that healthcare education and awareness are key in helping overcome the disproportionate statistics. “Get focused on health issues, get vaccinated, ask questions.”, Metoyer says.8
- Nix E. What is Juneteenth? History. Updated June 17, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Juneteenth. Britannica. Updated June 23, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.
- Yu C. Battle Creek Juneteenth celebration to feature vaccine clinic. WMNT. Published June 17, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.
- Chesapeake Regional performing free mammograms at Juneteenth in the Park this weekend. WTKR. Published June 18, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.
- Lin S. Sacramentans celebrate at 18th annual Juneteenth Festival. KCRA. Updated June 19, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.
- Norton Healthcare offering wellness services during Juneteenth celebration. WDRB. Updated June 18, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.
- Brooks K. Local health care workers to host vaccination drive at Juneteenth Celebration. WHSV. Updated June 18, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.
- Black Health Counts Juneteenth Health Awareness Event. KJRH. Updated June 19, 2021. Accessed June 25, 2021.