This month Regions proudly celebrates Juneteenth. A combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth.” Juneteenth acknowledges the effective end of slavery in our country. It commemorates June 19, 1865, the day federal troops took control in Galveston, Texas, and 250,000 Texas slaves learned that they were free. Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday in 1979, and 47 other states recognize it as a state holiday.
Juneteenth came years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, which stated all slaves “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” But the proclamation only applied to areas under Confederate control, and word of slavery’s abolishment traveled slowly as the Civil War ended. Finally, in December 1865, the 13th amendment formally abolished slavery.
“Juneteenth is such an important celebration in Fort Worth,” said Regions’ Dallas Commercial Banking Leader and Market Executive Tyrus Sanders. “Our local Regions Bank team is excited to be part of the 2021 Juneteenth celebration, not just in our sponsorship role, but specifically with a focus on providing financial education to the community as part of this year’s Empowering You Day on June 12. We wanted to connect our celebration of Juneteenth to our mission of making life better and our commitment to improving financial wellness, and this was the perfect way to do that.”
North Texas Consumer Banking Manager Rudy Walker led two financial education seminars as part of Empowering You Day, held virtually this year due to the pandemic.
“What I loved about this opportunity is that it allowed me to show my community the pride and excitement I have for Regions,” Walker said. “It gave me the opportunity to share the story around the importance of financial literacy, and share why I am so honored to work for a company like Regions that respects all people and all communities.”
In honor of Juneteenth, Sanders sat down with Opal Lee for and discussion of this important day. Ms. Lee is a 94-year-old retired educator and life-long Texan who has played a leadership role in the annual Fort Worth Juneteenth celebration. She is a Juneteenth advocate and social justice pioneer lobbying to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Ms. Lee said that she wants people to realize that Juneteenth is not just “a Texas thing.”
“Texans have traveled all over the world and they’ve taken that holiday with them,” she said. “Juneteenth … is celebrated in 47 states, in Mexico, Europe and other places.”
Ms. Lee believes that Juneteenth is a holiday for all people, from all backgrounds, and that it can bring us together. She said this was more evident than ever before with the 2020 Juneteenth celebration and walk in Fort Worth. Every year Ms. Lee walks 2.5 miles in honor of the enslaved Texans who didn’t know that they were free for 2.5 years after emancipation. In 2020, due to the pandemic, they held a car caravan instead.
“I thought we’d have 10 or 15 cars,” she said. “We had 300 cars to follow me as I walked that 2.5 miles. I was so delighted and, you see, these weren’t all Black people. These were people from any and every ethnicity. I don’t know any other way to explain that people are beginning to understand that Juneteenth has as much significance as any of the other holidays that we celebrate.”