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Juneteenth-What Is It and Why Aren’t You Celebrating It?

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by G. Brown

What is Juneteenth?  It’s one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.

Why aren’t you and most people celebrating Juneteenth? Because a lot of people, especially millennials, don’t know there is such a thing.

Knowledge of the Juneteenth celebration is geographically centered it seems…with more people in the Southwest and West cognizant of it since the celebration has its origin in Texas.  According to historians, on June 19th, 1865 the Civil War ended when Union soldiers landed on Galveston and set slaves free.  If you know your history, you’ll note this is a full two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but as character Gunn once said on the TV series “Angel”-“…saying people are free, don’t make ’em free.”  And a even a declaration from the President didn’t mean people were ready to let go of slavery. Late, but not denied, even the last strongholds of slavery yielded to the changing tide of change on June 19 and the date was shorten to Juneteenth as a celebration.  The commemoration started as day of gathering families for prayer and observation through an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston.  It evolved into more of a celebration with the addition of rodeos, baseball and other  games and activities.

Even the food held significance, such as the traditional barbeques which were a tribute to how African ancestors prepared meals of lamb, beef and pork.

In its prime, Juneteenth celebrations sprawled from rural areas to urban churches and parks.  Local citizens formed Juneteenth committees and established permanent venues like Emancipation Park in Houston and Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia.

As the 20th Century rolled in, the week long celebrations that once attracted thousands became the target of more progressive thinking.  As Blacks turned to text books and classroom for formal educations, the family taught lessons of traditions began to fade. By the time of the Great Depression, few families  who had steady work could afford to spend a week away to focus on a celebration.  Juneteenth continued to shrink as decades ushered in more opportunities for Blacks many of whom fled rural areas for urban life.

The celebration continued waning until time forced another historical and cultural expanse in the form of the Civil Rights battle.   While some continued to view Juneteenth as a sentiment tantamount to an old Negro spiritual wailing about the days of old, others saw it as catapult to mobilize and marshal Blacks through the Civil Rights era.   Juneteenth saw a resurgence as Blacks of the 50’s and 60’s celebrated their history, heritage and hope. By 1980, Texas officially made the celebration a state holiday. National museums like the Smithsonian began sponsoring Juneteenth events.

Major cities from Philadelphia to Houston to Atlanta celebrate Juneteenth with parades, festivals, skits, guest speakers and spiritual gatherings.

If you still Juneteenth is nothing more than a sentimental relic of painful days best forgotten, Atlanta’s celebratory motto says it best….”Black History Matters”.

 

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30 Comments

30 Comments

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  25. Shawn J.

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  26. WES AKA YOSEF BARNARD

    June 20, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Why should we celebrate a non-event? Juneteenth is supposedly celebrates the “end of slavery”. Have you read the 13th amendment? It clearly states that the right to enslave has been transferred from the White Slave Masters to the U.S. government judicial system. This is why the jails and prisons of this nation packed with Black people. We are still being enslaved. The sad irony is that the masses of our people do not realize it. We are still enslaved. This has been insured by our enslavers – the White Elite Class.

    They have enshrined our enslavement in the law. We are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, supplanted by all of the other immigrants who have come to live and thrive in this land. Why are we unable to rise? We enjoy the highest crime rates, highest unemployment rates, lowest graduation rates, highest disease rates, highest delinquency rates, highest teen pregnancy rates, highest abortion rates, lowest self-respect and esteem rates, highest mental illness rates, highest substance abuse rates, etc. Yet, we are in love with the lie that we are free. I am not trying to be abusive here.

    I am simply trying to wake our people up to our present reality. We are a “cursed” people by choice, just as Kanye West implied. He may not realize the import of his words, but he was expressing a hidden truth. For proof I would invite anyone who still retains a health respect for the Word of God to read Deuteronomy 28:15-68 where our experience, as a people, were detailed in prophecy over 3,500 years ago. Will we read it, connect the dots, discover who we really are and our relationship with God? The vast majority of us – NO. We don’t like to read. We don’t like the truth. We don’t like to deal with reality, thus we love to be entertained, deceived and misled.

    So, I hope I have provided an adequate answer to your question: Why Aren’t You Celebrating It? My hope and prayer is you, who are reading this comment are the exception to the rule. Respect.

    • Shawn J.

      June 20, 2018 at 6:32 pm

      Thank you, WES AKA YOSEF BARNARD!

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      July 12, 2018 at 2:11 pm

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    June 20, 2018 at 4:55 am

    May 19th was Malcolm X’s birthday. May 19th was also the day of the so called British Royal Wedding. How many black people honored Malcolm X vs black people who celebrated and threw parties for a half breed black girl name Meghan Markle marrying a British Nazi? My point is that most black people only celebrate holidays that white people allow us to celebrate. White people only allow us to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, therefore that’s the only holiday most of us celebrate. The facts are sad but true.

  28. IfaEl Akbar

    June 20, 2018 at 12:13 am

    One day to learn about freedom from American slavery in Texas. Hmm… No one cares to teach about the economic gains of American slavery for white people that they enjoy today. It is how white governments patronize us and give us a little time to celebrate nothing. We get nothing to get a foothold in this economy just music and food. Just a party with nothing to show, but the results of Emancipation’s “frying pan to the fire” gesture. Hurting and tramatized (PTSS)Black Africans coming together to hopefully not hate each other or shoot each other, the way we were taught for over 400 years. Stop celebrating freedom from being chained only to run lose in the masters backyard. Hurting people are gullible and conflicted. We want community but we need healing from the past so we will really have something to celebrate.

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