By Steve Blanchard - June 17, 2022
For the second year in a row, Moffitt Cancer Center is recognizing Juneteenth, or June 19, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
This year, members of Moffitt’s team member engagement network, Black Empowerment Alliance at Moffitt, or BEAM, raised a Juneteenth flag over the Moffitt McKinley Campus to recognize the historic day. This was the first time that the flag has been raised on Moffitt property.
“It is important for everyone to recognize June 19 as an important milestone in American history, as it marks the end of slavery in the United States," said Cathy Grant, vice president, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. "Our cancer center takes pride in its commitment to making health equity a priority. We are also committed to improving the overall health of our community by steadfastly working to reduce and eliminate cancer disparities experienced by the Black community and other underrepresented communities through research and the delivery of personalize care.”
Specifically, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. That was also more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.
President Joe Biden signed the federal law recognizing the holiday in 2021, making it the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.
“As an institution that recognizes and celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion, Moffitt Cancer Center applauds the addition of this important holiday to our calendars,” said Dr. Patrick Hwu, president and CEO of Moffitt. “Holidays such as these are meant to recognize milestones, and this significant day in our nation’s history deserves this acclaim.”
Moffitt’s Associate Director of Industry Alliances Latanya Scott is the chair of BEAM and said the network was inspired by team members’ commitment to diversity and representation. Enterprise Equity championed the formation of the group in 2020.
Since its formation, BEAM has created mentor programs, brought in guest speakers and, most recently, raised the Juneteenth flag.
In addition to the on-site flag raising, Moffitt will recognize Juneteenth in the community by partnering with the Tampa Museum of Art for a free family-friendly celebration at the museum on Sunday, June 19. The event will focus on both art equity and health equity.
Food trucks and live music performances will be included, along with free admission to the museum.
“This celebration is a great example of organizations with a shared commitment to equity working together to support programs like the Juneteenth Cultural Celebration and making educational opportunities accessible to everyone,” said Grant, who is also the co-chair of the governance committee at the Tampa Museum of Art.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For details, visit the museum’s event page.
You may see another red, white and blue colored flag flying across the U.S. during the middle of June. This flag is recognized by the National Juneteenth Observation Foundation as the official symbol of Juneteenth, June 19, 1865. This day is also known as Freedom Day when Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation. It was designed by Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, in 1997 with the help of collaborators Verlene Hines, Azim, Eliot Design and Boston-based illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf.
In 2000, the flag was revised to this version. There is also an updated version from 2007 that includes the Freedom Day date in white lettering along the right edge of the design. Haith has relayed during previous interviews that the design was born of a deliberate process, with each element of the flag having a specific meaning:
- The white star in the center of the flag represents Texas, the Lone Star State, where the country’s last remaining slaves were notified that they were free under the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued two years earlier. It is also symbolic of freedom for Black Americans in all 50 states, which are represented by stars on the American flag.
- The bursting outline around the star was inspired by a nova, an astronomy term for new star. In this case, it symbolizes a new beginning for the Black Americans of Galveston, Texas, and throughout the land.
- The curve that extends across the width of the flag represents a new horizon: the opportunities and promise that lay ahead for Black Americans.
- The red, white and blue harkens back to the American flag, a reminder that slaves and their descendants were and are Americans. Juneteenth marks the day that all enslaved Black people across the nation formally became Americans under the law.
For over two decades, communities around the country have held Juneteenth flag-raising ceremonies in celebration of this freedom and upgraded status. However, we recognize that the work is not done, and help is needed to elevate each of us onto level footing. Moffitt flies the Juneteenth flag to memorialize our commitment to health equity for communities experiencing cancer disparities, like the Black community and other underrepresented minorities. We hope it also serves as a reminder that each of our diverse perspectives and experiences can make a difference and bring the dream of freedom from cancer within reach for all cancer patients.