Happy Juneteenth, working towards the ultimate freedom


June 13, 2022

From Avery L. Staley, J.D. – Catawba County United Way Board member and Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Multi-Cultural Affairs Lenoir Rhyne University

As we celebrate Juneteenth, it is my honor to write a statement that is significant in theory and in practice.

While Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure all enslaved people were freed, it is the word freed that draws a bit of irony. On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday, which formally honors the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is symbolic celebration of physical freedom, but the derivative impact of a system supported by oppression, can be felt by African Americans throughout our nation, and stands in the way of the ultimate freedom.  

It is no secret, that we have an immense amount of work to do, to achieve the ultimate freedom. The ultimate freedom includes closing the gap in healthcare equity, closing the education gap, respecting persons of color, working on ending homelessness, in a nation where some cars are worth more than homes.  

The ultimate freedom also includes equitable treatment related to environmental issues, fair treatment in our law enforcement and judicial system, and eradicating discrimination in the workplace. I can go on and on about the challenges that we face today, but I would rather focus on how we make efforts to repair damage and help achieve the ultimate freedom for African Americans.  

We must be intentional about learning about cultures we don’t know, instead of making assumptions based on propaganda. America is better than it is showing right now, and the United Way is a conduit to demonstrate that theory. 

The United Way’s work can be impactful in helping to close the freedom gap of housing, healthcare equity, and education by supporting the organizations locally, who are subject matter experts. 

I wish a happy Juneteenth to all, and as we celebrate one layer of freedom, we should all be focused on how we can help with achieving the ultimate freedom. 

As Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Lenoir Rhyne University, our commitment to providing a first-rate educational experience to all, is one way Dr. Fred Whitt, and Lenoir Rhyne University is doing our part to help achieve the ultimate freedom.