Celebrating freedom, resilience: Maricopa community members reflect on the lasting influence of Juneteenth


Juneteenth. It’s an amalgamation of the words “June” and “nineteenth.” Today is a celebration of freedom, culture and resilience for many in the African American community. It’s a period of education and reflection of the country’s complicated history for Americans at large.

Juneteenth is a day that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the U.S. on June 19, 1865. On that day, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued a legal decree that enforced the Emancipation Proclamation upon his arrival in Galveston, Texas. There, roughly 250,000 people were still living under slavery in the formerly confederate state.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation declared the freeing of enslaved people on Jan. 1, 1863, not every state and territory implemented the executive order from President Abraham Lincoln. This held true for states like Texas, an isolated part of the Confederacy.

“Juneteenth is significant because we were waiting for that massive allowance of people to be freed from slavery,” said Joanna Vanderpool, an educator and member of the Maricopa Historical Society.

For the holiday’s 158th anniversary, InMaricopa asked community members to reflect on why Juneteenth continues to stand as a notable holiday in Maricopa.

Jelani Elliott
Founder | Safe House

When I see the celebration of the freedom and what happened after that, it stuck to me because it gave me a sense of myself, it gave me a sense of worth. Maricopa is a melting pot, so I feel celebrating Juneteenth is very important. We have a large African American population and I think it should be celebrated, along with Hispanic holidays, LGBTQ holidays. The city of Maricopa should reflect everyone in the city.

Learn more about Jeleni Elliot here.

Jim Irving
Commissioner | Planning & Zoning

I remember being real thrilled when I found out about the day. It was just really nice to see there was a recognition of a day that was important to African Americans, especially one that tied into history.
Moving out here, I’ve really gotten to appreciate cultures. Any time there’s a chance to explore and explain things like Juneteenth, it just benefits everybody.

Arnita Green Owner | Greentree Financial Solutions
Arnita Green – Owner | Greentree Financial Solutions [Bryan Mordt]

Arnita Green
Owner | Greentree Financial Solutions

It gave me an opportunity to reflect on how far as a people we have come. It allowed me to have more cultural appreciation and just look at how much further we need to go. We as a people have overcome slavery but we still have a ways to go. Maricopa has a large African American population, so it’s important that we are part of our history here and that we acknowledge and recognize Juneteenth as well.

Learn more about Arnita Green here. 

Rachel Leffall
Commissioner | Planning & Zoning

I think it’s important to recognize Juneteenth in Maricopa because a lot of people still don’t know about the holiday and its significance. It is one thing we need to know and acknowledge historically, while seeing how that plays into where we are now. If you forget the past, you’re doomed to repeat it.

Learn more about Rachel Leffall here.

Joanna Vanderpool

In Maricopa, we have children who are thirsty to understand different cultures. Children want to learn, they want to know different cultures. It is important for them to understand that right here at home, they can get involved. They can engage in a holiday.

Councilmember Henry Wade
Councilmember Henry Wade [Bryan Mordt]

Henry Wade

It’s a part of me and who I am in terms of my understanding of my origins. If you can appreciate and respect yourself and what your origin is, then you’re going to be more likely to be appreciative and respectful of other cultures.

Learn More about Councilmember Henry Wade here.

This content was previously published in the June issue of InMaricopa Magazine.

Learn more about Juneteenth here.