Hello and Happy Juneteenth to everyone. Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery for the African American people in the United States. This holiday is important to me because I am a black female, who is also living with blindness and other health challenges. Under the chattel slavery system of the past, what kind of life would I have been born into? I cannot think about this question too long, because it is painful. Yet, we must take time to remember and learn the truth about our history so that the past is not repeated. Because slavery was abolished and rights were restored due to the Civil Rights Movement , I have a wonderful life. I graduated from an HBCU. I have been able to work as an educator and also for our local government. Currently I am a very active retiree. I volunteer with many advocacy organizations devoted to advocating for people with disabilities and for all people to have the right to vote in our country.

wheelchair user voting at foldable table

We know that before 1865, African American people were property, and most likely an owner would have no reason to own or keep slaves with disabilities. What use would I be to a white family who only wanted their slaves or property for free labor? What would have happened to people like me under this horrible system where men and women were considered “less than” simply because of the color of their skin? We know that enslaved men, women and children were forced to live with untold injustices and cruelty for more than 250 years. Thank God that we are free now . I celebrate Juneteenth to honor the resilience and courage of all who struggled for freedom. We are free now to live life and become contributing members of our communities.

Freedom and the rights of citizenship restored by the Emancipation Proclamation mean that as a black woman living with disabilities, I have the right to be whomever I chose to be and do whatever I want to do. It means that I can have an education, become employed with payment for whatever profession or skill that I choose. It means the right to own a home and have a family; the right to use public transportation and enjoy restaurants and theaters without discrimination. As a citizen, I have the right to vote and to advocate for the needs of my brothers and sisters in the community who are also living with disabilities and disadvantages. I will NEVER take these freedoms for granted.

I encourage you to pause on this Juneteenth weekend and reflect on what freedom and advocacy mean to you. We are fortunate to have organizations like Disability Rights Florida and Access the Vote Florida that help people with disabilities to lead independent lives regardless of the type of disability Please remember the past, become educated about our stories and share our history. I encourage each of you to become involved in making this life better for all Americans. The United States still struggles with inequality and difficult race relations. Yet, we have come a long way from those dark days of slavery and discrimination. Celebrate freedom on this special day of Juneteenth.

juneteenth flag, blue and red flag with a star and burst in white. date on flag says june19 1865.

Learn more about Juneteenth online:

Blog by Marilyn Baldwin 

Marilyn Baldwin’s bio:

I attended Bethune Cookman University graduated in 1982, with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. and worked for the City of Orlando from 1987 until 2002.

My volunteer work includes the League of Women Voters of Orange County serving on our Board of Directors.  The National Federation of the Blind, Chapter President, our Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board, for Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties. On thee TD Board, I chair our Quality Assurance Task Force. I am a Board Member of the Friends of Library Access , chairing our newly created Scholarship Committee. I chair the Diversity Committee for the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, and Co-Chair the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion , and Advocacy Committee for our local League. And of course I also volunteer with Access the Vote Florida. I was instrumental in getting our Orange County Disability Advisory Board started and was Chairman for a number of years beginning with 1996.

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