JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. –
Juneteenth National Independence Day, also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day, is now observed for celebrating black culture. Originating in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States, commemorating the emancipation of black people who were enslaved. Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021. However, June 19 has been a holiday for our ancestors since 1866. In honor of Juneteenth, I had a wonderful opportunity to interview Chief Master Sgt. Ezekiel Ross, 316th Wing command chief.
Senior Airman Spencer: We have adopted Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.’s action order to “Accelerate Change or Lose.” How does diversity and inclusion actively fit into this model?
Chief Master Sgt. Ross: The mandate to accelerate change applies across all spectrums, to include how we look at diversity within our ranks. Diversity has been proven as a force multiplier. As an Air Force, we must be deliberate in our efforts to ensure we are promoting and fostering diversity, inclusion and equality across all ranks and levels of leadership. This is what makes our Air Force, and by extension, our Nation great!
Spencer: The federal government began recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday last year. How do you feel this holiday should impact the military moving forward?
Ross: This is another opportunity to celebrate the progress our nation has made throughout history. Making Juneteenth a federal holiday ensures everyone, including African American descendants of slaves, has the opportunity to pause and reflect upon the ideals from which our nation was built. Our founders envisioned a nation that was defined by “unalienable rights.” Those rights are what our military fights to protect each day. Every American has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Juneteenth is yet another reflection and acknowledgement of those rights.
Spencer: Did you celebrate Juneteenth before it became a federal holiday? If so, when did you learn about the holiday?
Ross: Unfortunately I did not learn about this significant point in history while in grade school. I only learned about this moment in history about four years ago. However, upon learning the importance of this day, it makes me proud to be an American. This day is affectionately called “America’s second Independence Day.” It is a day that is important to many African Americans, as it represents freedom from enslavement, tyranny and social injustice. Let Freedom Ring!