Juneteenth is a celebration of June 19, 1865, the day the announcement was made in Texas that slavery had been abolished in that state. It’s an official holiday in 41 states, still many people aren’t aware of it. I didn’t become aware of it until I was away at college in Louisiana. I have yet to go to a celebration because the date is honestly not on my radar until it actually comes; which is unfortunate. It’s a date I should celebrate just as I do July 4th. (For more info on Juneteenth go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth#Observation.)
Some will say this is an unnecessary holiday. It’s in the past after all—why bring it up? Every year we celebrate America’s independence from Britain, which is even further into the past. I feel we should have the same fervor of celebration, for this major turning point in our country’s history. There should be no shame, no guilt; just a day of wonderful celebration to acknowledge all of those before us, black and white, the good, and the bad of them, and accept our country’s collective history.
In the scope of history, our journey as Americans has been short. By our, I mean all Americans. Wounds are still open, covered with bandages and band-aids, but without true healing. I think Juneteenth should be used as a step toward that healing for all Americans, but especially for those of us who are the scions of slaves and slave masters. A step towards acceptance and closure. It should also be a time for us that are descendants of Africans who were enslaved in America, to evaluate, on an individual level, just what it is we are doing with our freedom. How are we using the sacrifices of those before us? What are our plans to make the future better for those after us? We are standing on the shoulders of people who fought and died for our freedom; what are we doing with it?
In regards to honoring Juneteenth, this is my first step; acknowledging the holiday, and spreading the word. Next year, I will make it my business to be part of the celebration and I hope you’ll join me.