Many people have heard of the extravagant gatherings of Black folk in mid-June to commemorate Juneteenth, however few know about the rich history and culture embedded in this festive holiday. It is true that America gained independence from Britain in 1776, but Black people in America were still enslaved. It wasn’t until January 1st, 1863 that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, requiring all Confederate states to fully abolish slavery. So YES, there are TWO Independence days; one for White Americans and another for Black Americans nearly two centuries later.
Here’s what you should know about Juneteenth:
· It is celebrated on June 19th annually.
· It commemorates the day when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to deliver the news to the last 250, 000 enslaved Black people that they had been freed.
· Juneteenth is an official holiday in Texas.
· Black Americans celebrate this holiday every year with many festive activities including but not limited to cookouts (also known as barbecues), performances, dancing, music, etc.
· Most states have passed legislation to legally observe or make Juneteenth a state holiday.
Are you glad to know a little more about Juneteenth? Be sure to click the resources below for a more information. But in the mean time and between time, let’s unpack a couple of the countless inequities that persist in contemporary America and the symbolism attached to holidays, especially those with legal observances and federal recognition.
Unless you’ve been quarantined a lot longer than the rest of us, you should know that celebrated heroes such as Christopher Columbus and George Washington are not the heroes that history books proclaim. Let’s just be real. Christopher Columbus helped to catalyze and lead one of the largest genocides in history against indigenous Americans. And, George Washington owned slaves all of his life. He grew up on a plantation. When Washington’s father died, Washington helped his mother manage the plantation. As it turns out our founding father wasn’t much more than your average slaveholder. Just think about that! The man we grew up idolizing as the 1st president of the United States, the man that chopped down a cherry tree, the man that had Betty Ross sew the first American flag…lies-ALL LIES!
Younger intellectuals have vigorously begun to shed light on how extremely offensive symbols celebrating the legacy of slavery are by taking down confederate flags at state capitol buildings and throwing Columbus statues in the River, intellectuals who value true equity realize that these symbols have no place in America if we want a more equitable future for our children. This Juneteenth marks 155 years of freedom for Blacks in America.
Within such a short amount of time we have gone from being called Niggers to Coloreds, to Negroes, to African-American and Black. There is an ever evolving identity for a Black people in America; a people who bear the burden of slavery in their DNA and carry the scars of genocide in their psyches. There is an inherent resiliency embedded in the hearts of Black people in America. The Black Lives Movement and SAVEROCHESTER.ORG encourages you to harness your power, and to find allies that will help you do just that. On this Juneteenth please take the time to remember what we’re celebrating during our cookouts. Sure, have a beer or two! But the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” had better be in your mouth and the freedom songs sung by the last freed slaves in Galveston, Texas should be imprinted on your mind!
Sources (not a complete list).
Save Rochester Black Lives Matter encourages you to show up to a Juneteenth event to celebrate FREEDOM. All are welcome, including pets!
We are cancelling JULY 4th. There will be a BLACK OUT. Instead, join us on June 19th at Highland Bowl.