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Kaleida Health Hosts Inaugural Juneteenth Celebration Event on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Updated: 7/1/2021

On June 17, Kaleida Health hosted the inaugural Juneteenth celebration event on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus across from Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute and Oishei Children’s Hospital. The event, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States over 155 years ago, brought together the local health care community, as well as elected officials, union members, religious leaders, as well as representatives from community agencies.

Speakers at the event included Kaleida Health CEO, Bob Nesselbush; Kaleida Health Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Shannon Bryant; Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes; and Bishop Darius Pridgen. The program also included an original poem by Park School 6th grade student, Vaughn Beauford, and a song by Darcel Blue, Minister of Music at Buffalo’s New Covenant United Church of Christ. 

Juneteenth is the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger announced that slaves in Texas were free by order of the President of the United States. The announcement came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official on January 1, 1863. Although celebrated throughout the United States since 1865, Juneteenth has been more widely observed since the Civil Rights Movement, providing a platform for the promotion of diversity and an opportunity for education about the sacrifices and challenges endured by enslaved Americans in their struggle for freedom. 

"Juneteenth is such an important moment in history that should be acknowledged and celebrated,” said Bob Nesselbush, Kaleida Health’s chief executive officer. “As healthcare professionals, we have a heightened responsibility to understand the historical context and how it is deeply connected to the humanity of our patients and the communities we serve.” 

The event featured food, music, educational resources and free COVID-19 vaccines for attendees, and concluded with a check presentation by The Foundations of Kaleida Health to Project Mona’s House – a Buffalo-based organization dedicated to helping women who have been victims of human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery. The women of Mona’s House are committed to rebuilding their lives, becoming contributing members of society and assisting other women in doing the same. The 12-24 month program is designed to bring healing to the whole woman – mind, body and soul.

“It’s a great occasion to connect with one another, reflect on African American history and honor its role in our community, as well as bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking in our region and around the world,” added Nesselbush. 

As one of the key pillars in our community, Kaleida Health remains committed to leading the way in addressing racial inequities in the health care industry through education. When we are sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society. 

“Juneteenth is a crucial day in our nation’s history to remember how far we’ve come and recognize how far we still have to go,” said Shannon Bryant, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Kaleida Health. “During a time when communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and when tragic racially-motivated social injustices and discrimination have shone a light on the systemic racism Black Americans face every day, we must work together to build a more equitable and just community. 

The event was live-streamed on Kaleida Heath’s Facebook page and can be viewed here:

Photos from the event can be viewed here: 

A highlight reel from the event can be viewed here: