I’ve always been driven to succeed—for myself, my family and my community. As a member of the Web & Content Strategy team here at Navy Federal Credit Union, capturing stories and explaining concepts for our members is part of my everyday job. As a military spouse and member myself, I’m uniquely positioned to capture those experiences, and today, I’m grateful to share my own.
Lifting My Voice
In my sophomore year at Hampton University, a historically Black university, I was determined to become a member of the Student Leadership Program. One of the many things you had to learn to be in the program was the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
On the day we were learning the song, about 500 of us Student Leader hopefuls poured into the big auditorium on campus. Holding folders with our song lyrics and other information we needed for the week, we filed into the royal blue seats, standing together as the first notes of the piano started off the song. I’d heard and sung it many times before, but on this day it hit different.
“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us”
As I followed along with the lyrics, it dawned on me that only a few yards away in 1863, the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to newly freed slaves took place. The same Emancipation Proclamation that declared all enslaved persons in the Confederacy should be freed as of Jan. 1, 1863.
Juneteenth and Our Continued Progress
It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when Major Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX and issued an order to Texans informing them that all enslaved people were free. We now commemorate that day as “Juneteenth,” the day in which an estimated 250,000 enslaved people were freed—a full 2 and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
“Out from the gloomy past
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast”
Although Juneteenth is meant to be a holiday for celebration with songs, dancing, food, church ceremonies and the coming together of the Black community, Juneteenth 2020 was met with a more somber tone. The murder of George Floyd was a not so subtle reminder that although we’ve come a very long way from where we were in 1865, we still have work to do. Seeing the senseless killing of unarmed Black people over and over again is heart wrenching but has also been fuel to consistently push for justice and equal protection under the law that generations have fought for.
On Juneteenth 2021, I reflect on what the words in Lift Every Voice and Sing mean to me. How it represents the struggle of Black people from when they were enslaved through the Civil Rights movement, and how that still resonates with the struggles of the Black community today.
A Better Tomorrow
But Lift Every Voice and Sing doesn’t just talk about navigating through the most difficult times, it’s also about having optimism for a better tomorrow. I’m proud to share that I did go on to become a member of the Student Leadership Program. That lesson in perseverance illustrated by these lyrics is part of what continues to inspire my own strong drive.
For my family, a huge milestone in achieving our own better tomorrow is homeownership. My Grandparents owned their first home in 1965 and always instilled in my Father the importance of owning a home and property ownership in general. My parents closed on their home in 1997, and just a few months ago, at the age of 27, I closed on my first home. It’s comforting to know that this home will be the place for so many celebrations in life and that I’m continuing the legacy of homeownership in my family.
I see this as an important step toward generational wealth. As an employee and member of Navy Federal, I have financial resources at my fingertips to continue that pursuit. My hope is to create an even better tomorrow, for my children and their children.
“Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won”
Author Bio: DeKyan Dennis works in Marketing as a Web & Content Strategist at Navy Federal Credit Union. She’s a military spouse whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. When she’s not working, she enjoys bowling, dancing and playing with her Yorkie named King.