Wolf Pack celebrates Juneteenth

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Akeem K. Campbell
  • 8 Fighter Wing Public Affairs

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Rep. of Korea --“Freedom, that’s one word to describe it all,” said Airman 1st Class Shamika Williams, 8th Force Support Squadron career development technician. “We still have room to grow, but that’s the start of it. Once we were all set free and given equal rights as others that made it possible for us to reach that progresses what we’re trying to import.”

On Jan. 1, 1863 former president Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. More than two years later, Union General Gordon Granger informed African American slaves they were officially free on June 19, 1865. On June 17, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed June 19th into law as a federally recognized holiday in the United States.

Though many celebrated Juneteenth before it received full recognition, this is the first time the 8th Fighter Wing has celebrated it as a federal holiday.

From June 12-18, the Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Black Airman Cultural Committee (BACC), an organization that provides a supportive environment for African American Airmen, celebrated Juneteenth by hosting several events across the base.

“Although we’re in South Korea, we still have African Americans here who want to celebrate our history no matter where we go,” said Airman 1st Class Shamika Williams, 8th Force Support Squadron career development technician. “We’re all about educating people and giving them that understanding of our culture.”

The BACC was created shortly after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. The council provided a place for African American Airmen to congregate and express themselves and let off some pressure. It then evolved to include every one of all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities so they can have an understanding of African Americans.

On June 13th, BACC held a Juneteenth Exhibition. There were African theme colored balloons, cherry flavored Kool-Aid, cupcakes, Juneteenth morale patches and shirts. Attendees also received pamphlets and poster boards containing information about the significance of Juneteenth and how it came to be.

“For some, this is a fairly new federal holiday,” said Tech. Sgt. Keara Cowan, 8th Fighter Wing command post noncommissioned officer in charge of command and control systems. “Each event will educate individuals on what Juneteenth is, why we do it and why it is important,”

The BACC held a Juneteenth trivia night where patrons could answer themed questions for prizes and partake in, themed crossword puzzles and ‘Family Feud’ style competition.

“Trivia Night was super fun,” said Senior Airman Jasmine Peoples, 8th Security Forces Squadron patrolman. “Juneteenth wasn’t something that was taught along the years. Along with the games, learning more history on what it’s about and seeing everyone’s views and opinions on it made it so fun.”

Finally, the BACC held a luncheon where Col. Anthony L. “Hawk” Mitchell, 8th Medical Group commander, gave a speech about the significance of Juneteenth.

“We need to remind one another that days like Juneteenth are American holidays,” Mitchell said. “It celebrates American value of resiliency, hope and freedom. We must also learn about all of our history across the different communities that make up our nation, because it has something to teach all of us.”

Though there are still trials and obstacles to overcome, progress has been made throughout the many years.

"I think the Air Force is starting to embrace diversity especially with the Diversity and Inclusion organization that they started,” Cowan said. “I feel that they are embracing it, but it’s going to take time. To fully embrace change is always going to take time.”

With Juneteenth now being recognized as a federal holiday, people can not only enjoy the day off, but they can also take this opportunity to learn more about the importance of Juneteenth.

“Don’t be afraid to learn someone else’s culture,” Williams said. “Learn their mindsets, learn their habits that is what makes you a better supervisor or coworker in my opinion. It will propel you in ways don’t understand, because now you can relate to your peers, co-worker, supervisor and things of that nature.”