As communities fight for justice, Juneteenth sheds light on Black History and freedom

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. But 155 years after, the nation is still struggling with the issues of systemic racism and injustice. The celebration of June 19, coined “Juneteenth“, marks a day in 1865 when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were free — two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The first Juneteenth celebration took place a year after in 1866 in Texas with community gatherings, including readings of the Proclamation, cookouts, prayers, dances, parades, and the singing of spirituals.

The Black community continues to celebrate the day of freedom as it is a sacred day of memory with millions of people annually participating in festivals, parades and other gatherings. The holiday is a continuation of the legacy of resilience, and a reminder of a people’s ongoing anguish.

From Juneteenth:

The mission is to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.

Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging     continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War, abolished slavery in the United States. Yet, Mississippi did not vote to ratify the amendment until 1995 — 148 years later — but did not legally record it until 2013.

Currently, more than 200 official events commemorate Juneteenth in cities and towns all across the US and the world. Yet, Juneteenth is not a federal holiday and remains unrecognized in 3 states.

Since May 26, protests and demonstrations have continued across the United States and the world, calling for an end to racism and police brutality against Black Americans, as more and more Black Americans are killed.

In the age of Trump, struggles of racial justice and both documented and undocumented acts of police brutality against Black Americans, Juneteenth is a necessary date for the country to look into our racial past together and discover solidarity going forward.

In 2020, Juneteenth is an opportunity for all of us to understand how slavery continues to affect the lives of all Americans today. Everyone can take action and help foster dialogue about the trauma that has resulted from the enslavement of 4 million people for more than 250 years.

Right now is the time as systemic injustices are just beginning to be acknowledged by this country as the most widespread and momentous political mobilization for racial justice in American history continues. 

Juneteenth should mark a day of reflection and education on white supremacy and its manifestations within our society. We should address and strive for change in policies and structures that are anti-black, as we continue to build a country together that will recognize everyone as equal. 

Juneteenth is as much a celebration of perseverance as it is of freedom, and that lives on in how we celebrate it today.

If you would like to help make Juneteenth a federal holiday, sign the petition here:

Also, if you would like to make a donation to groups fighting for racial justice:

Alanna Joyner

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