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Celebrating Juneteenth in Senegal

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By Fatoumata B. Rassoul Thiam (YES 2018-2019, Senegal, Hosted by World Link in Swansea, IL)

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On June 28, 2019, I did my first presentation about Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is a U.S. holiday celebrated on June 19 that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South. 

Before going on the YES program, I was a participant in the English Access Microscholarship Program (Access), an English program for teenagers sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. When I returned from my year in the U.S., my Access teacher, Mr. Ndiaye, asked whether I had time to give presentations to his class, especially to talk about Juneteenth. 

About 40 Access program participants, three English teachers, and one French teacher attended my presentation. This was an exciting opportunity for me to show people in Senegal what the U.S. traditions for Juneteenth are like. I really enjoyed it! 

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The participants were so active and gave a lot of feedback. We discussed racisim, the abolition of slavery, and why and how Juneteenth is celebrated. We also did some really interesting activities related to leadership, patriotism, and volunteering. We had a great time working in groups to draw things like the American flag, Abraham Lincoln, and the Juneteenth flag. We listened to and sang American songs and danced American dances. Participants found the activity very interesting; they learned a lot and were so happy! As an alumnus of both Access and YES, it was a pleasure to spend time with these future leaders and talk about America. 

I am grateful to the Access program for teaching me so much about America and for giving me the level of English I needed to make it through the YES testing successfully, go to the U.S., and live my dreams. I am very thankful to the YES program for providing such an amazing opportunity to live in the U.S. All the experiences I had in America were not just having fun, they were a process of learning about life. My YES year made me so independent and mature and confident that I will be able to solve my problems and overcome challenges in the future on my own. But it also taught me that hand in hand together we can impact the world positively!


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