CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik Jackson might be new to Cleveland, but he’s already getting himself involved in the community, making sure local students know the importance of Juneteenth with a book distribution initiative.
On the Thursday before Juneteenth, Jackson donated 250 copies of the Juneteenth book “All Different Now: Juneteenth the First Day of Freedom,” by Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis, to students at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Cleveland.
“I’m excited to donate these books because it’s important to me for the next generation of African Americans to know that we are free,” Jackson said. “Juneteenth is a symbolic reminder of the over 200 years of oppression in this country that we have overcome, and we should not only draw strength but, most importantly, educate our present about our past to ensure a brighter future.”
Juneteenth, now an official federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on Thursday, is observed on June 19 every year. It commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. and is also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Juneteenth Independence Day.
The holiday, which dates back to June 19, 1865, commemorates the day when Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas. The order let slaves know that the Civil War had ended and they were free, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation.
As a part of Jackson’s initiative, the Juneteenth books were distributed to Cleveland students Thursday.
"I want to do something powerful, impactful, and something that can last for a long time. And we came up with the idea of books," Jackson said. "When I found out, I was like, 'Well, I want to make sure I teach as many kids about this as I can.' And it's just important to know where you come from so you can know where you're going."
Jackson, one of the newer members of the Browns, was signed in free agency in March. The 31-year-old defensive tackle was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2012 NFL Draft and before coming to Cleveland spent time on the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles as well—and Jackson has been active in all of the communities he's played in.
"It's really just trying to leave an impact and just thank the fans who pay me, who pay the owner to pay me. So it's almost like a just like a full circle kind of thing," Jackson said.
A Clevelander for just three short months, Jackson is already working to give back and educate the youth in his new home and putting culture and history lessons at the forefront for the next generation.
"Really just learn about the day, learn the importance of it, learn the history we've gone through to get to the point we are so we can start bettering ourselves and really start educating ourselves," Jackson said.
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