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The following is a personal message from Carolyn Maddox, executive assistant in the UAB Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine.

Carolyn Maddox Juneteenth 2Celebrating Juneteenth is our opportunity to recognize, reflect, and redirect. Recognizing that in 1865, my people were led to believe that their freedom was never returned. Their freedom—constitutionally theirs on Jan. 1, 1863, with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation—was selfishly delayed more than two years by their enslavers. This portion of our U.S. history makes recognizing Juneteenth our duty. Truth and then reconciliation are the first and most profound steps in the healing process.

A lot can be accomplished when a community builds, creates, and works together. We could learn from the Gee’s Bend quilters. Their story began in the 19th century, when the enslaved women of their isolated rural area started making quilts from what was at hand to keep their families warm. They passed down their skills through generations, stitching their stories into their quilts. These quilts are now in permanent collections at museums across three continents.

Gees Bend for target Maddox 2bWhat stories will we weave to share with generations to come? Did we honor our past? Did we actively work to correct past wrongs, and did we ensure future generations never repeat those wrongs? Did we dig deep to include and not exclude?

Today, as we honor my ancestors’ wrongful exclusion; let’s redirect with intentional actions to dictate a future with amazing results. It costs nothing to actively include rather than purposefully exclude; irrespective of ethnicity, age, gender, qualifications based on efforts, and accomplishments.

In the photo above, Maddox is wearing a quilted coat that was created in collaboration with The Quilter's of Gee's Bend.