CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Community residents packed the Community Recreation Center amphitheater here June 19 for a “Freedom Celebration” focused on history, education and community resilience.

The Juneteenth Day of Observance event featured historical presentations, musical performances, trivia giveaways, free food provided by event sponsors, and guest speaker Ernestine Robinson, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Equal Employment Opportunity manager.

U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. David Rio, opened the event by thanking all those who worked to plan and host the activities. He also spoke briefly about the history of the newest federal holiday.

“This day marks our second Independence Day … the day in which truly all Americans were free,” he said.

Rio quoted the original presidential proclamation for the observance in 2021, saying that Juneteenth is “a day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country … but it is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, hope and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve.”

Rio said that Camp Zama’s event provided that important opportunity for the community.

“That is why we are here today,” Rio said. “To gather as a community so that we can remember our history, both positive and negative, celebrate the triumphs that have led us to today, and in acknowledging that there is still more work to do, reaffirm our commitment to that work.”

The event also featured Dr. Chagoll Brown, assigned to U.S. Army Japan, reading the entirety of the 2023 presential proclamation for the holiday, followed by musical performances by Zama Middle High School students.

Army Capt. Christian Ramsay, assigned to the 78th Signal Battalion, spoke of the history of Juneteenth, and 13-year-old Sinnye’ Wynn recited the poem “The Hill We Climb,” by Amanda Gordon.

Sgt. 1st Class Anisha Johnson, assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, also sang “Glory” before Robinson’s keynote speech.

In her speech, Robinson said it was important to pay tribute to the tireless efforts and progress made by those committed to promoting fairness, equal opportunity and just treatment for all people.

“True faith and hope is deeper than simple optimism; it’s more mysterious, delicate and elusive,” she said. “It is a feeling we must develop and cultivate, like that of love.”

She also challenged those in attendance to look within themselves to ask what they are passionate about, and what they are willing to do for the betterment of others.

“Am I willing to get out of my comfort zone and work while there is time? Will I do what I can to make my workplace, my community and this world a more loving place for all of humanity to live?” she asked.

The formal portion of the event concluded with Staff Sgt. Lance Boston, of the U.S. Army Japan Band, performing both the national anthem and the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” widely known as the Black national anthem.

The Juneteenth Day of Observance officially became the eleventh federal holiday in 2021 and is the first new federal holiday since the recognition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 1983.

Known alternatively as Jubilee Day and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth became one of multiple local holidays commemorating the official end of slavery at different points across the South.

Juneteenth represents victory over the institution of slavery and the beginning of the fulfillment of America’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for Black Americans.

Master Sgt. Alfrelina Wynn, the first sergeant for I Corps (Forward), helped emcee the event. She said it was great that the community members, including residents from other U.S. military bases in the area, attended.

“It’s the knowledge, the education and it’s the understanding of our history,” Wynn said of the presentations throughout the event. “It’s not just a certain demographic — it’s all of our history.

Camp Zama hosts Juneteenth event with focus on history, education, community resilience

Camp Zama hosts Juneteenth event with focus on history, education, community resilience

Camp Zama hosts Juneteenth event with focus on history, education, community resilience

By admin