World Refugee Day, which is observed on June 20th each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the of the refugee crisis across the globe. This day is observed to recognize the courage many have, when they are forced to flee their homes and to honor those that have welcomed them into their communities.
Refugees are defined as peoples who are forced to leave their home countries for a variety of reasons, including, fear of persecution, ethnicity related violence, war, religious intolerance and famine. Refugees face many difficult challenges when leaving their homes. They leave behind family, friends, social networks, and all they have built to live a life worth living in their home country. Often times these people become permanently displaced living in neighboring countries, which are hostile as they face their own challenges with poverty and instability. Others find themselves living in refugee camps in deplorable conditions, and others remain on the move continuing the journey of seeking refugee further and further away from home.
As a refugee woman who migrated to this country, I am honored to find a workplace (Spurwink) that continuously strives to help those that are underserved and marginalized population affected by inequality everyday; including new comers who are fleeing to Maine everyday. Thank you for being part of our community, and for standing with refugees and immigrants.
I also wanted to share a little Juneteenth History and why we celebrate it:
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Many people believe that the emancipation proclamation immediately freed slaves in 1863, America. This is untrue. Millions were still enslaved until Major General Gordon Granger delivered the news of the emancipation proclamation to Galveston Texas on June 19th, 1865. This is what freed the last slaves in this country and why we celebrate Juneteenth.
Slavery has destroyed and oppressed black peoples for centuries. Recently, structural racism has been at the forefront in the United States, including how inequities exist today as direct extensions of the slavery Juneteenth celebrates the end of. This holiday celebrates what black people have overcome and the fight for freedom that continues. I strongly encourage each of you to take all this in as an opportunity to grow and reflect how far we have come as a nation, while recognizing that there’s still work to do.
~ Written by Emelda Wani. LCSW, Program Director of Spurwink’s Greater Portland Program