Why we should celebrate Juneteenth
More than two years after president Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, seemingly ending slavery during the Civil War, his political move did not break the shackles of many enslaved peoples. Southern states that broke away from the Union at the time didn't abide by the laws of the land. The message of freedom spread slowly, and unlike the portrait painted by textbooks, most enslaved people were not instantly free.
While almost 200,000 freed black men had served in the Civil War once the Emancipation Proclamation became law, the news of freedom traveled slowly throughout many Southern states, including Texas.
Juneteenth, recognized on June 19th, honors the date General Gordon Granger descended upon Galveston, Texas to take control of the Confederate state, announcing the news that slavery had ended.
While this milestone moment is not heralded as a celebration by some, both historically potent and modern leaders are advocates of the holiday. Called Freedom Day by some, Juneteenth began from local celebrations to national recognition in Black communities and organizations across the country. In the past, Juneteenth only made waves in Texas. In fact, The Lone Star State became the first to name Juneteenth an official holiday in 1979.
Juneteenth is still not officially recognized in Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Juneteenth not only represents freedom but also reinforces the significance of familial and cultural traditions. Such an important day in not only Black history, but American history entirely, deserves more than some woke hot takes on social media about slavery, liberation and the Fourth of July. Juneteenth should be celebrated as a joyous affair, as an ode to the endurance and triumph of Black people. It's a celebration of us, homage to our ancestors and a reminder of the how far we have came and also the unforeseen journey to true equality.
Celebrating Juneteenth and the ending of slavery does not turn a blind eye on the injustices we continue to face as a race and culture under the guise of liberty and justice for all. While the day is celebratory in nature, it is the perfect opportunity to recognize and pay tribute to those who - both historically and in modern times - have been tragic victims of white supremacy. Juneteenth traces the grey clouds with a silver lining of hope that society can and will continue to progress, and projects the message of true liberation and equality activists and organizers have worked towards for decades.
Singer Usher used his moment at ESSENCE Festival 2015, which takes place July 4th weekend, to share his appreciation for the holiday, sporting a shirt with the words "July Fourth" crossed out in favor of Juneteenth. The singer also wore a jacket relaying the message "Have we truly achieved our Independence."
In my family, Juneteenth has always been a day of good food and good times. Family, friends and neighbors travels from state to state to my grandfather's backyard to celebrate Blackness in America. Amid the music, games and fellowship, we have discussions on Black history. In fact, you're not allowed a plate without sharing a Black history fact.
Juneteenth has always been a day personal to the Black community, yet it deserves recognition on a larger scale as a Federal holiday. Whether you have an upscale, bourgeoisie party gathering like the Juneteenth episode of Atlanta, join community celebrations or a good ol' fashioned cookout, use the day to commemorate the buoyancy nature of Black America in the past, present and future.