The entire INDYCAR community is taking a break from its speedy midseason pace to celebrate the meaning and significance of the Juneteenth holiday on Monday, June 19.
Juneteenth was born out of the recognition that enslaved American people were now free by virtue of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, declared the freedom of all enslaved people in the United States. The Civil War continued for more than two years after the proclamation, as did the plight of enslaved people due to the time it took for word to spread and for the enslaved Americans to know that they were free.
On June 19, 1865 – more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed - a group of soldiers went to Galveston, Texas, and announced to the people there they were free.
When the announcement was made and the people realized what it meant, they celebrated their freedom. Using a colloquial expression, they called the day Juneteenth.
“The importance of remembering the Emancipation Proclamation and the celebration of Juneteenth is acknowledging that we are all whole people, we are all human beings, we are all citizens of the United States, and that none of us have to be subjected to slavery,” said Rod Reid (photo, center), founder of NXG Youth Motorsports and Team Principal of Force Indy, both of which provide educational and motorsports opportunities to minority communities. “It is recognizing a day when we started to treat all people equal.
“Looking forward, I'm hopeful when I think about the motorsports community and about the education that we do through NXG and Force Indy. I consider our programs to be a bridge between the motorsports community and communities of color because we didn't have a connection. Many Blacks don't have a history of our fathers and mothers being mechanics, winning the ‘500,’ or being on teams that go back to the early 1900s.
“The celebration of Juneteenth is about looking back and realizing we have changed; then, looking forward to the opportunities of everyone working together to make motorsports and the world we live in a better place.”
Instead of using the exact terms, because freedom had been given years before, Juneteenth became the day to celebrate the reality of the Emancipation Proclamation. Public awareness of Juneteenth grew in 2020 amid nationwide protests after the police killings of several Black Americans, and President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday in June 2021.
Penske Entertainment also created its Race for Equality & Change in July 2020, a continuing, major effort to support diversity and inclusivity across the INDYCAR industry.
“While the day itself commemorates the end of a dark era in our history, we choose to celebrate the light in ourselves,” said Krystol Smith, executive, social media & content for Arrow McLaren. “For me, Juneteenth is all about uplifting the Black community, applauding our resiliency, honoring our heroes and allowing us the space to love on ourselves freely and proudly as Black Americans.”
Krystol Smith, Arrow McLaren