June 17, 2021
Phillips 66 Sweeny Refinery Maintenance Scheduler Jerry Manning grew up celebrating Juneteenth in his hometown of Bay City, Texas, not far from where the order to free all slaves reached the state 156 years ago.
“It celebrates us as a people,” Manning said of the June 19 holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. “We recognize hope, we recognize freedom and we recognize being citizens and a part of this great nation.”
It was on June 19, 1865 — more than two months after the Civil War ended and more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had outlawed slavery in Confederate states — that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 in Galveston informing the people of Texas that all slaves were free.
As Phillips 66 commemorates Juneteenth — a state holiday in Texas since 1979 — one of the most meaningful company events was set to take place at the Sweeny Refinery, located some 60 miles southwest of Galveston.
On Friday, Manning, who serves as Vice President of the Sweeny Refinery’s Black Employee Network, was set to join refinery colleagues and fellow BEN members to mark the occasion with special presentations, a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and a visit to the Armstrong Cemetery, which is located on refinery grounds.
The burial ground includes the graves of slaves and of 1st Lt. Patrick F. Duggan, a Union soldier and advocate for freed slaves in Texas.
“It’s our own little piece of history,” Manning said of the cemetery. “We can look back and reflect on where we’ve been. We can come here and look at this place and see where we are now and where we’re going.”
This year’s celebrations were taking on added meaning, as President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. That recognition comes amid a national reckoning on race, and as Phillips 66 accelerates inclusion and diversity initiatives.
Refinery Operator Nehemiah Oatis, a featured speaker at the Sweeny event, pointed out that fellow BEN members would also participate in Juneteenth events in nearby communities over the weekend.
“It’s great that we are celebrating this day within our gates of Phillips 66,” Oatis said. “It’s equally as important for us to show up and celebrate with our communities.”
BEN chapters across the Phillips 66 footprint, among them those at the Alliance Refinery near New Orleans, the Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex in Southwestern Louisiana, the Los Angeles and San Francisco refineries in California and Houston headquarters, were also set to host Juneteenth events.
And that brings a smile to Manning, who has long held that Juneteenth is a holiday for all Americans to celebrate.
“When we greet each other and we say happy Juneteenth, that’s not only happy Juneteenth to Black America, that’s happy Juneteenth to every American,” he said. “As a country, together we thrive.”