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Our CEO’s message about why Juneteenth is so important

The following is a message CEO Kim Greene sent to all employees on Friday, June 18, 2021.

A friend of mine recently shared a personal perspective that moved me.

“Juneteenth is my Independence Day because July 4th didn’t set me free,” she said.

Her comment challenged me to think differently and take the time to learn and understand the importance of Juneteenth and how/why it is different than two other events I was more familiar with — the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Juneteenth, officially celebrated tomorrow, commemorates the true end of legalized slavery in the United States that occurred on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln to legally abolish slavery. This is when word of the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Texas. It was the day the last enslaved people learned they were free.

So, as I reflected on my friend’s comment, I was inspired by the fact that Juneteenth should serve as a time for all of us to join together in recognition. I’ve learned that so many — myself included — never knew about this important time in our history. Now knowing its importance, it clearly serves as reason to celebrate.

Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that makes June 19 a federal holiday— the first new federal holiday designation since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. Southern Company joins those who supported making Juneteenth a national holiday.

As I think about the three pillars of Fueling Equity — Listen, Learn, Lead — I recognize that a key part of growth involves learning by unpacking ALL of our history, no matter how uncomfortable. And I have been SO encouraged and motivated by each of you and the important work you have done to lead and engage in these conversations and efforts to create a more equitable future for all of us. The more we learn together, the closer we grow.

This week, we all had the opportunity to learn even more about Juneteenth — and the reason the holiday is so important for all of us. Yesterday, I participated in En Rapport’s Juneteenth Celebration, which featured Dr. Javaune Adams-Gatson, president of Norfolk State University, and Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, dean of Norfolk State University. The program provided meaningful discussion around the rich history of Juneteenth.

If you missed it, I invite you to watch the replay. As you watch, I encourage you to listen, learn, and then take those learnings forward and lead by example.

Let’s all join together on this special holiday and continue the good work to create a more equitable future.

Happy Juneteenth everyone!

Kim Greene

President and CEO