Freedom to choose: A tribute to Juneteenth

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Destini Hamilton

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE — “You can be anything that you want to be, as long as you set your mind to it,” is a saying I always grew up hearing from my mom, teachers, and mentors. As I was born in Columbus, Ga., and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., I did not get a chance to see much of the world.

Racial inequality was foreign to me before I attended college, because the school I attended before taught only basic American history. As basic as: African Americans were slaves, then they were freed, and the Civil Rights Act happened. Since the school I attended stopped teaching me at that base line, it lead me to believe that we are now all equal in the world.

It was not until I attended a historically black college, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), that I began to see what the real-world was like. The topic of racial inequality was never truly presented to me until I enrolled in my African American history courses at FAMU. There I learned about different levels of racial inequality and how they are still present to this day. Today you see different forms of inequality, like the prison ratio for African Americans versus Caucasians. While at FAMU, I began to learn even more about my heritage.

The phrase “you can be anything you want to be” was not always an option for African Americans. It was not until June 19, 1865, that Gen. Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, and finally ended slavery 30 months after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. “Juneteenth,” June 19 is an official state holiday in Texas as of June 13, 1979. Since then, African Americans have the opportunity to fully embrace what is now known as “freedom.”

I never had intentions of joining the military. Throughout grade school, I wanted to be an actress, then I wanted to be a technician, followed by a police officer, but I finally settled on being an officer in the United States Air Force. The Juneteenth holiday means a lot to me because in the early 1800s, African Americans did not have the freedom to decide what they wanted to be in life. They were told. Since the day I was born, I have embraced my freedom to choose how I live my day to day life, how I dress and most importantly what career path I’d like to embark upon.

June 19 is the day that I pay homage to my ancestors for fighting for my equal rights. I CHOSE to serve in the military, and it is not a decision that I take lightly because I know that not too long ago, it was not a choice and at times, not even an option. I am very grateful that I will be able to tell my children and the next generations to come that they too can be anything that they want to be.

Who am I? My name is 2nd Lt. Destini Hamilton and in honor of Juneteenth, I have asked Altus’ local businesses to help share awareness on this day by providing special discounts. Be sure to ask your local restaurants, what special discounts they can provide for you on June 19.

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