What is Juneteenth?
Why we should celebrate – Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19th that the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were free. What’s crazy about this is that it was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863 (Source: Juneteenth.com)
The Emancipation Proclamation, could not be enforced until the war was over. (It applied only to the states “in rebellion” at the time it was issued.) Upon hearing the news, the liberated slaves of Texas celebrated. Their moment of jubilee was spontaneous and ecstatic and began a tradition of marking freedom on Juneteenth. (Source: Smithsonian)
To dive deeper, read this Juneteenth Fact Sheet from the Congressional Research Service.
Celebrate Juneteenth? I’ve never…
I don’t ever remember learning about Juneteenth in school (surprise). As far as I knew, as an American born descendant of Jamaican parents living in the north, all the slaves were free as soon as Lincoln decided it would be a necessary war strategy to do so. (And even then, not even all slaves).
Little did I know that people were still being held captive because clearly the Confederacy wasn’t trying to broadcast the info (again, surprise). My history lessons stopped at the Union beating the Confederacy, and then we moved into more white nonsense conflicts with guns and bombs. Many conflicts that were nothing more than phallic sword fights. And of course, “manifest destiny” and white supremacy.
Anyway. It’s quite clear that this country didn’t intend to write slave emancipation into its history as anything more than a footnote. Or, as a gaslighting white male reminder in times like this that we’re “free now” so we should be content. It’s just weird that we don’t nationally recognize and celebrate Juneteenth. Almost like we didn’t really care to free the slaves or something…
How we can celebrate Juneteenth
“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.”
Give the Black folk a day off. It’s cool that companies are starting to recognize it as an official organizational holiday. It’s quite overdue. However, it is annoying that we have to rely on the people in charge at our individual places of work, to value this day in order to be able to celebrate it. I’m pretty certain retail establishments aren’t closing to allow their black employees to reflect and pay homage to the ancestors. Additionally, the descendants of people who enslaved my ancestors being able to get this day off does not sit well with my spirit. Sorry… not sorry.
Use your social media accounts and platforms to encourage people to celebrate Juneteenth. There are many of us who are just learning about the significance of Juneteenth. Juneteenth was not on my K-12 curriculum. I’ll be posting about Juneteenth on my Instagram page and sharing any good tidbits I find, to my story.
Support Black Women working to better their own lives and the lives of others. Through curating personal joy and wellness, they’ve invited others to have similar journeys. Read more about them.
Support our continued fight for freedom. Bail funds need your donations, petitions need signing, protestors and organizers could use your skills and support. Find out more about how you can support the effort.
How I’m Celebrating Juneteenth
Getting educated on all things Revolution & Strategy
I’ve been diving into a bunch of books I’ve had burning a hole in my bookshelf: I recently finished reading “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements”.
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, by Adrienne Maree Brown. Inspired by Octavia Butler’s explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This is a resolutely materialist “spirituality” based equally on science and science fiction, a visionary incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us. (Source: Goodreads)
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Asha Bandele. A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free. Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin. When They Call You a Terrorist is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable. (Source: Goodreads)
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis. In these newly collected essays, interviews, and speeches, world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world.
Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build the movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that “Freedom is a constant struggle.”
(You can also connect with me on Goodreads or scroll to the bottom of this page to see what’s on my reading list, I update it frequently)
What I’ll be reflecting on when I celebrate Juneteenth
I’m in the middle of reevaluating my career trajectory. I want to challenge myself to think deeper around how I can make sure my path brings value to the fight for freedom my people are championing. In particular, a concept from “Unapologetic” that refuses to leave my soul is being a practitioner of healing justice.
Healing Justice is a framework that identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds. Through this framework we continue to build political and philosophical convergences of healing inside of liberation movements and organizations. (Source: TransformHarm.org)
I see myself in this. Deep down, I know I’m meant to participate in healing.
I am motivated by the words of our beloved Assata Shakur:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
When did you start to celebrate Juneteenth? how will you celebrate this year?
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