“But, if this part of our history could be told in such a way that those chains of the past, those shackles that physically bound us together against our wills could, in the telling, become spiritual links that willingly bind us together now and into the future – then that painful Middle Passage could become, ironically, a positive connecting line to all of us whether living inside or outside the continent of Africa…” –Tom Feelings
Many years ago, I heard about a little-known holiday that I dare say a lot of people may still be clueless about. One year, in order to see if my theory was correct, I questioned several friends and relatives about “Juneteenth.” A couple of relatives thought I was throwing a hint about my birthday, which is June 16th. I wasn’t, but it was a great reminder and did get me a few more gifts. No, I explained, Juneteenth (June 19th) is the day that all slaves found out that they were free. It is the oldest celebration remembering and memorializing the end of slavery in the United States.
As I read and meditated on the above quote, I couldn’t help but reflect on African American communities today and how hard many of the caregivers in my family (fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, and neighbors) worked to ensure we had a stable home environment and a good education. Ours was a great neighborhood and community. After sixty-plus years, my mother still lives there; my father, determined not to move even after 30 years at Ford Motor Company, resided there until his death in 1990. Even today, Southwest Detroit is a stable community and enjoys a bonding that continues its heritage with the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the long-time residents.
I recognize that not all communities enjoy that. I’m concerned about the attacks on our communities both from within and without. The senseless murders, poverty, lack of education and employment, and the systematic racism that tries to hold and lock us in positions of despair, helplessness, and hopelessness mounting across our nation. I believe that things will change for the better as our President, spiritual leaders, community activists, and caring politicians reach out in brotherly love. I believe we will see a change that reflects the great heritage of our ancestor’s strength, courage, and determination. Putting a spin on the words of Maya Angelou “Still We (I) Rise…”
Juneteenth came to be because, sadly, it was two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that news of freedom came to hundreds of slaves living in Galveston, TX. It was declared a state holiday 1980. As you can imagine, it is celebrated in a big way in Texas. Today it is growing in popularity all over the world, from South Korea to Africa, Japan, Central America, and Canada.
“Juneteenth is a day of reflection, a day of renewal, a pride-filled day. It is a moment in time taken to appreciate the African American experience. It is inclusive of all races, ethnicities and nationalities – as nothing is more comforting than the hand of a friend.”
“Juneteenth serves symbolically, and in reality, as a reference point from which to measure and appreciate the progress and contributions made by African Americans to this society.”
“Juneteenth is a day on which honor and respect is paid for the sufferings of slavery. It is a day on which we acknowledge the evils of slavery and its aftermath. On Juneteenth we talk about our history and realize because of it, there will forever be a bond between us.”
“On Juneteenth we think about that moment in time when the enslaved in Galveston, Texas received word of their freedom. We imagine the depth of their emotions, their jubilant dance and their fear of the unknown.”
“Juneteenth is a day that we commit to each other the needed support as family, friends and co-workers. It is a day we build coalitions that enhance African American economics.”
“On Juneteenth we come together, young and old, to listen, to learn and to refresh the drive to achieve. It is a day where we all take one step closer together – to better utilize the energy wasted on racism. Juneteenth is a day that we pray for peace and liberty for all.”
For more details and to find celebrations see: http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm.