Celebrating Juneteenth

My dear friend, Sheryl Garner Ellsworth, who I’ve been friends with for a number of years since our days in Washington, DC when she was teaching elementary school and I was in graduate school, first introduced me to Juneteenth a couple of years ago. She used her birthday as an excuse to get all her (mostly) white friends together and tell us about the holiday.

During this time of massive change, I couldn’t imagine letting June 19th go by without acknowledging it so I wanted to highlight what she did for us on her birthday two years ago.

This is Sheryl on her birthday holding Jasper before she became a mother to her little adorable Hamilton.

Today is ALSO her birthday, which is just the perfect way to celebrate her. Happy birthday Sheryl!

Juneteenth Resources

Before her pool party, she sat us down and had us watch the Blackish episode that explain it, Hamilton style. Think Schoolhouse Rock meets the Roots. You can watch the full episode on Hulu or ABC but here’s a little snippet of the episode.

The brief history goes, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the last enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free. The date was June 19, 1865. Today, people in the United States continue to celebrate the day, Juneteenth.

Where to learn about Juneteenth

I’ve been spotting some short guides on Instagram that explain a bit more. Here’s a few from @spiritofrevelry, @theccnyc, @monicapirani.

And here’s an article that talks about Juneteenth and its association with Utah.

I’m forever grateful for Sheryl for spending her birthday educating us. She’s an educator by profession and teaching flows through her blood. She’s very patient as we (many of her white friends here in Utah) attempt to learn more about what we can do to improve systematic racism.

While we’re talking about Sheryl, and if you follow me on my personal Instagram who know I talk about her a lot. It’s because has done an amazing job of being a clear voice for equality for a LONG time, even before recent events. When she speaks, I listen. I wish she made her Instagram public so we could hear more from her, but I will continue to share what she says because it’s important. I’m her biggest fan.

The other night I attended a panel discussion that she moderated hosted by Kristin and Jeremy Andrus in Salt Lake City. I recorded her introductory speech and I encourage you to all listen to it.


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I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion last night featuring various black people and their experiences in Utah who talked about what we can do together to improve our racist system and mentality. My dear friend @skg_ellsworth moderated and did an excellent job. She kicked it off by saying some words, which left me heart broken, angry, then hopeful. I encourage you to listen to all ten minutes when you get a moment. Grateful for @kristinandrus for hosting and everyone on the panel who participated AND the amazing gospel choir @thebonnerfamilymusic I have come away feeling like this is the beginning of many conversations and action leading to real change. Racism can’t improve until we all decide it’s important to change.

A post shared by Brittany Watson Jepsen (@brittanyjepsen) on

Sheryl organized a peaceful family friendly protest in her community in Salt Lake. You can read more about it here.

This selfie is not my greatest moment, but always happy to share about Sheryl.

You can hear more from Sheryl in an interview on Utah’s Studio 5 with Emily McCormick.



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