Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day, or Juneteenth Independence Day, is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, observed annually, is celebrated this year on Saturday, June 19.
In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states to be free. More than two years would pass, however, before the news reached African Americans living in Texas. It was not until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that the state’s residents finally learned that slavery had been abolished. The former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, feasting, song, and dance.
This year Juneteenth has a special meaning, given all the efforts being made to deny Blacks, other people of color and students access to the ballot box. This is an open attack on Democracy and our humanity.
The Declaration of Independence did not address the conditions of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, the indigenous women, and other people of color. Over the years many groups saw that the 4th of July was not their Independence Day, and that they needed to find another way to celebrate their lives and achievements.
In response to lack of inclusion many groups created their own dates to celebrate. The Irish celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, Italians, Columbus Day (but that one is disappearing and being replaced by Indigenous People Day), Mexicans began celebrating Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16th; the Chinese their own New year, Women International Woman’s Day, The Puerto Rican Day Parade (June 12th), Octoberfest for the Germans and the list goes on.
Many commemorations like Cinco de Mayo began on a foundation of history, but soon were taken over by a corporate push for Consumption of too much food and quite often too many alcoholic beverages. We must keep our eyes on the real prize.
Today we are facing yet another deadly virus and this is one of racism and oppression. The history of slavery, Jim Crow and now the new modern Jim/Jane Crow laws and attitudes must make us want to consider participating in Juneteenth. ¿Who, me…? Well, I am on a Juneteenth community advisory committee for the town of Clarkston, Georgia, for a multicultural celebration that help to build an understanding of Juneteenth and other peoples struggles for freedom.
This year Juneteenth is a day for celebration but also a time to educate, motivate and activate people to stand together, march together and vote together on behalf of more real human rights for everyone.