June 19 marks a significant day in American history – Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day. On this day in 1865, the enslaved African Americans of Galveston, Texas, received the news of their freedom from Union army troops. It was a momentous occasion as they learned that slavery had been abolished by law. However, it had officially ended two and a half years earlier with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The people of Galveston, filled with joy and hope, immediately embraced this newfound freedom. Just one year later, they began to commemorate it as a day of celebration, even if it arrived after the rest of the nation.
“Their emancipation, though delayed, opened the opportunity to begin a journey toward a better economic future for themselves and their future generations,” said Ignacio Salazar, President & CEO of SER Jobs for Progress National (SER National). “Freedom’s transformative power for those once enslaved gave them hope, resilience, and resolve to achieve their dreams. At SER National and the SER Network of Affiliates, this day serves as a reminder of the determination to help uplift individuals who experienced significant challenges but refuse to let those dampen their spirits or hinder their progress. Their unwavering resolve to improve their lives inspires us all,” says Salazar.
It took another 156 years for Juneteenth to become an official federal holiday, with President Joe Biden signing the law on June 17, 2021. Yet, the progress toward equitable economic opportunities continues to this day. For over six decades, SER National and the SER Network of Affiliates have been dedicated to assisting more than a million people annually in achieving their economic freedom through workforce development programs. These initiatives empower participants to uplift themselves, set new goals for their futures, and overcome the barriers that may have hindered them from reaching their full potential.
“Our mission at SER National is to empower people to overcome the challenges that have kept them from attaining their full potential,” says Salazar. “We strive to open a path so every participant can acquire the necessary skills training, personal and work-related development, and benefit from our broad support structure. The greatest reward is to see individuals grow and do whatever it takes to learn a new trade or profession. Yet, the data reflects the need for continued efforts to achieve prosperity and equality as a nation,” he adds.
Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, is a momentous occasion that unites us in celebrating our country’s journey toward fulfilling the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. It is a time when we come together to honor the resilience of those who fought for freedom, acknowledge our progress, and recommit ourselves to the ongoing work of achieving equality and economic empowerment for every individual.
As we commemorate Juneteenth, La Familia de SER joins with our communities, partners, and stakeholders in recognizing the importance of this day. Together, we can build a brighter and more equitable future where all individuals have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the prosperity of our nation.