Our Founder

Mr. Bernie Wilkins
Founder of DEJA

Upon reflection, it now seems that increasing awareness of Juneteenth  was a predestined event. In 1943, I was born into a world of a “segregated”   society in Virginia. I then migrated to a “segregated” society in Delaware in 1950. I also served in a        “de Facto” segregated military after high school and in college in 1966.

Until college, I had been taught, “That’s the way it is”. “But, the awareness of racial identity and racial equality created a period of activism that continues today. That activism is being   fueled by the need to learn how best to learn the “How” and “Why” of the   African-American heritage.

The significance of Juneteenth was expressed to me during a work-related trip to Alabama in 1997. My  co-worker from Milwaukee asked what were we doing that year to celebrate Juneteenth? I replied, “What’s Juneteenth?” From that moment on, learning about Juneteenth became a passion. I learned the meaning of the word “Homecoming”. On June 19,1865, they captured the city of Galveston, Texas after several failed attempts had been made in the last bastion of slavery. They were informed by General Article 3 that they had been emancipated by President Lincoln 2 1/2 years earlier. Slaves in that moment were unsure of what to do, but the majority knew they wanted to go “home”. Those who chose to migrate to Canada, the mid-west and the far west continued to celebrate June 19th as their Fourth of July. This celebration of Freedom in the metropolitan areas of the country have annual attendances that frequently exceed 100,000 people.

It is my passion to see the Observance of Juneteenth become a national event. It is important that we can identify and celebrate specific occasions of freedom for our people. Juneteenth is not or should not be limited to certain geographic areas. “All African-Americans were affected by this proclamation. This is another opportunity to celebrate freedom.