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JUNETEENTH: FREE’ISH’ Since 1865 – Today We Commemorate The Last Of The Black Slaves In America Learning They Are Free, And Celebrate Black Excellence

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Happy Juneteenth! On June 19, 1865, the last enslaved African Americans were notified that they were finally FREE from slavery. Today, we celebrate this epic moment in history to remember our past and honor our ancestors. More inside…

Time to turn up for the culture!

Today is Juneteenth! It’s the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It’s also called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, and Cel-Liberation Day

On June 19, 1865 Union soldiers – led by General Gordon Granger - traveled to Galveston, Texas and informed the enslaved African-Americans the Civil War was over and they were now FREE, a whole two years after the Emancipation Proclamation (Jan. 1, 1863) was issued by President Abraham Lincoln.  Due to the lack of technology and lack of white America wanting to give up their privilege and their slaves, the message took an unfathomable amount of time to actually get to the people who deserved to hear it the most.

Here’s a few other theories why it took so long for slaves to be informed of their freedom:

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or none of these versions could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question. Whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

155 years later, blacks aren’t physically enslaved, BUT we are still not totally free. More like free”ish” with the way racism, systemic racism and social injustice plagues our country.

There’s still tons of work to be done to defeat the intentional barriers put in place after slavery was abolished, but, there's hope that things are (slowly) changing for the good. From police reform kicking into high gear around this country, to the current watershed moment of racists in corporate & everyday America - who uphold the systemically racist infrastructure - being called to the carpet and quickly abolished from their positions.  It's the reversal we love to see, even though we've been preaching about these very things for 400 years.

This year several major companies - including Nike and Twitter - and states have declared Juneteenth as an official paid state holiday. Earlier this week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared Juneteenth as a state holiday. He made the announcement alongside producer/Virginia native Pharrell Williams:

Check it:

We’re still fighting and it’s starting to look like our voices are starting to be heard. However, racism is still very prevalent in the United States and those people will stop at nothing to preserve their history.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to remove the Confederate Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, VA earlier this month, which was a response to nationwide outrage over racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd. Robert E. Lee was commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War where he led the South's attempt at secession.

A Richmond judge pumped the brakes on the confederate statue being removed when he extended an injunction barring the state from removing the statue. Judge Bradley Cavedo said the statue is "the property of the people."

R&B crooner Usher penned an op-ed in the Washington Post about why it’s important Juneteenth becomes a national holiday. Below is an excerpt from his article:

“At the 2015 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, I wore a T-shirt that caught a lot of people’s attention. The design was simple. The words “July Fourth” were crossed out and under them, one word was written: “Juneteenth.” I wore the shirt because, for many years, I celebrated the Fourth of July without a true understanding that the date of independence for our people, black people, is actually June 19, 1865: the day that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached some of the last people in America still held in bondage.”

”I have no issue with celebrating America’s independence on July 4. For me, wearing the shirt was an opportunity to inform others who may not necessarily know the history of black people in America, and who are not aware that Juneteenth is our authentic day of self-determination. It is ours to honor the legacy of our ancestors, ours to celebrate and ours to remember where we once were as a people. And it should be a national holiday, observed by all Americans.”

”Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America. But it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do. We could observe it, as many black Americans already do, by celebrating both our first step toward freedom as black people in America and also the many contributions to this land: the construction of Black Wall Street; the invention of jazz, rock n’ roll, hip-hop and R&B; and all the entrepreneurship and business brilliance, extraordinary cuisine, sports excellence, political power and global cultural influence black Americans have given the world. And rather than observing Juneteenth as we do other holidays, by taking it off, we can make it a day when black culture, black entrepreneurship and black business get our support. A national Juneteenth observance can affirm that Black Lives Matter!”

”I proudly join the incredible people and organizations who have been working on this for years, among them the inspiring Opal Lee, a 93-year-old from Fort Worth, Tex., who has campaigned for the recognition of Juneteenth at the state and local level. There has never been a more urgent time than now to get this done. On Thursday, Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced that they are introducing legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Congress must pass this bill immediately.”

You can read his full piece here.

JEC Vice Chair Don Beyer (D-VA)—joined by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH), the First Vice Chair of the CBC and a JEC member— re-released two recent committee reports that shed light on the racial disparities at the root of both the coronavirus and police misconduct.

“As a Black man in America, George Floyd—murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25—was more likely to die from the coronavirus, and more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement. But Floyd survived the coronavirus, a recent autopsy revealed, only to be killed by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he suffocated,” said Congressman Beyer (D-VA).

Congressman Beyer (D-VA) continued, “The end of Floyd’s life illustrates a fact that many experts have pointed out: the community that is bearing the brunt of the coronavirus is the same community that is bearing the brunt of police misconduct—Black Americans. Ahead of Juneteenth, it is important that we remember and reflect on all the ways that Black Americans have fought and still fight for freedom in a country that is supposed to be the ‘land of the free’—especially now as people take to the streets in the name of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other Black Americans whose lives should have mattered to those they paid to protect and serve them.”

“This year’s Juneteenth celebration comes as our nation and the world confront the COVID-19 pandemic that has exposed deep inequities not just here at home but abroad," said Congresswoman Beatty (D-OH), First Vice Chair of the CBC and a member of the JEC. "The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the Black community and has laid bare disparities in healthcare, employment, housing, policing and our justice system. In fact, the unemployment rate for Black Americans is twice that for Whites, Black homeownership rates are approaching a 50-year low and the median wealth of Black families is one-tenth that of White families."

Congresswoman Beatty (D-OH) continued, "In this moment of crisis, it will take all Americans to work together to overcome the pandemic and to address the long-term systemic discrimination faced by the Black community which the pandemic has exacerbated. These reports issued by the JEC Democrats, under the leadership of Vice Chair Don Beyer, enumerate the many challenges Black Americans face due to structural and entrenched racism and show that the time is now to have a truth and reconciliation process to end racial disparities, unequal treatment and societal injustices that are the long-standing vestiges of slavery in America.”


Today, we send all of you good vibes and energy. The fight doesn't stop now, though.  It never did.  It took 2 years of our people to get the message in 1865. Despite all of the advancements in society here in 2020, it may take even longer now for the entire world to really get the message. We demand equality, not tolerance.  We demand humanity, not pity. We demand respect, especially from those whose salaries we pay through our taxes and our hard earned income.

Celebrate Juneteenth to the fullest and continue fighting for justice for us all!

Photo: AllyTroops/Shutterstock.com


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