Juneteenth – also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Cel-Liberation Day – is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the emancipation of the last remaining slaves in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.
At first, Juneteenth was only acknowledged in the state of Texas but later moved on to different states.
Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for Black people. Even in the years following the end of the war – our country would see imprisonment, lynching and Jim Crow laws taking root. What followed was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies and a lack of economic investment. And now – even in 2020, while progress has been made in Black America’s 150 years out of slavery, there are still barriers that block progress.
What I have learned more than anything in the past few weeks is how important it is to do the research and to educate ourselves about the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s important to reach out to our BIPOC friends and to recognize and acknowledge the existence of racism in our society. It’s important to amplify the voices of marginalized communities who have been silenced for so long and it’s important to celebrate steps towards progress by standing together.
Juneteenth Needs to Be Celebrated
The first step is learning about the history of Juneteenth. The next step is acknowledging the holiday. And then, not only acknowledging but celebrating its importance. Whether it’s through researching it online or through a Google search of what this day means… or if you find a virtual event to learn about this day. It’s important to embrace it and teach others. Reach out to your BIPOC friends on Juneteenth and tell them that you love them and that you stand with them. During this time of action with the Black Lives Matter movement, Juneteenth can be another chance for us to come together.