Today is Juneteenth a celebration of freedom that takes place in Black communities all over the Country. It originated in Texas when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves of America in 1863. This led to an annual celebration of freedom by newly freed Blacks called Emancipation Day. Can you imagine the sense of joy and relief slaves felt at the promise of liberty, and "fair treatment?" However, there was one HUGE problem; even after the Proclamation was issued, and no doubt during the first few "Emancipation Day" celebrations, slavery was still in place. The Confederate States continued to push back and fight for their "right" to enslave African people.
After the Emancipation Proclamation, most Blacks in the Country were still in bondage. As the war waged on, one by one Confederate states were beaten. It wasn't until June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger stood on the balcony at the Ashton Villa (headquarters for the Army of the Confederate States of America) and read General Order No.3 which informed the last of the slaves in the border state of Texas that the war was over. This day, originally called Jubilee would go down in history as a celebration of Freedom among the free slave colonies in Texas. The Celebration was the liveliest event of the year for blacks. The festivities included food, dancing, horse racing, and sports games like baseball. Later renamed Juneteenth the holiday spread out beyond the borders of Texas into Black Communities everywhere.
Today the celebration still takes place all over the Country. Here in NY, huge celebrations, and parades occur in many of the towns in Westchester County. In Peekskill NY there are even tours of an old Underground Railroad pathway. The Black Baptist Church played an important role in the Juneteenth celebrations in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Church spearheaded discussions regarding politics and the state of the Black Community. Fast forward to the present day, much has changed and at the same time much hasn't. Although it's been over 150 years since Slavery was completely abolished, Black Americans still face oppression, in ways eerily similar to the plight of our ancestors, obviously less extreme. The state of the Black Community is in limbo, African Americans remained the most under served community in America.
There is so much more we can do to improve our experience within our own communities. In honor of Juneteenth, and our ancestors here are the 3 things I think The Black people of all ages, and genders can do to impact positive change in our communities:
However you choose to celebrate Juneteenth, never forget the lives lost, and centuries of pain our ancestors went through. As we walk about freely in this Country, we must pay homage to those who died so that we can live free. We must take action to secure the freedoms and futures of Black children in America.