Juneteenth helps officer grapple with rising tensions sweeping the nation

June 18, 2020 /

In light of recent events and the Black Lives Matter Movement sweeping the nation, Ardath Downey has found herself torn. She is a biracial woman in law enforcement.

“With everything today going on, part of me wants to uphold the oath that I took, and I’m proud to be a cop,” said Downey, a correctional officer. “(But) two, I’m black, and I’m embarrassed to wear the badge at this moment and then go to work and you have your partners treating you differently.”

For decades, there have been issues between the black community and the police. People across the nation are outraged by the growing number of black citizens dying from police violence. And as a result, tensions continue to build. This leaves black officers in a difficult position. 

Downey was raised with her white family, so the other half of her identity — her black culture — was not focused on.

Now as an adult, she is spending more time learning her history and teaching her children.

Most recently, she learned about Juneteenth. For a lot of people, including Downey, they will be celebrating Juneteenth (June 19th)  for the first time. 

Faheemah Salahud-Din Discusses the History of Juneteenth

Faheemah Salahud-Din joins Ja'Nell Gore to discuss Juneteenth. Watch this special segment of Kern Sol News' 'In the 661' to learn more.

Posted by In the 661 on Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Juneteenth is a nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865 when the Union Soldiers arrived in Texas with news the war had evened and the enslaved were now free.

However, this news came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in January of 1863, but slave owners hid the truth for more than two years. 

Many people had no idea this holiday ever existed. Many don’t recall learning about the day in school or acknowledged anywhere else.

“It took me to almost 40 (years old) to get it, so slowly I’m relearning the history,” said Downey. “The history I was taught in school is not what I am learning now.” 

But this year, Juneteenth is gaining traction, as it came in the midst of people protesting the deaths of George Floyd, Bronna Taylor, and here locally, Robert Fobes.

Because of the state of the county, Juneteenth is getting more attention nationwide. Best Buy, Nike, Target, and more companies have made the day a paid holiday.

Downey and her friends will be gathering to celebrate their history and Juneteenth together.

Along with celebrating Juneteenth, Downey is finding light in the current situation. While it is emotional for her to see people hurting everyday, she is happy to see the black community come together and empower each other. 

“This right now excites me,” she said. “(As) awful that might sound, look at (how) people are coming together. We’re starting to shop on our own. If you go online people are like, where are the black businesses?”  

JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Cal State Bakersfield. In addition to writing for Kern Sol News she is a poet who loves any chance she has to perform and be with her community.