Jubilee! It’s a Juneteenth Celebration!
Juneteenth should be accepted and celebrated by all Americans because it's an American Holiday.
“They seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine that...the Africans [were created] to be slaves. What a libel upon… who ‘made of one blood all nations of men!’” (Jacobs, 1861)
As a child, my family attended at least one Juneteenth event. However, I have no recollection of the occurrence. My sister still remembers that’s how I know it ever happened. Since it wasn’t consistently acknowledged every year, the importance of the day was never instilled within me. I forgot that day and didn’t learn the significance until my adult years.
We’ve acknowledged Juneteenth as a holiday in my household for a few years now. Initially, we didn’t do a whole lot in terms of celebrating. We’d simply mention the historic day in passing, and send other people of color celebratory emojis along with a few words explaining the significance.
Since it wasn’t discussed nearly as much as holidays like Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day, I felt compelled to remind Black folks. Honestly, most didn’t know to what I was referring and that was acceptable because it wasn’t receiving national widespread exposure. Most didn’t learn about it in school or at home as kids and didn’t have the day off from work as adults. Ignorance was forgivable at the time.
If it wasn’t acknowledged in history books outside of an African American Studies class, there’s a good chance you just were ignorant to knowing the significance of the day. June 19, 1865, is said to be the day the last of enslaved blacks in America were informed they were no longer legally bound to perform unpaid labor and endure the gruesome cruelties it entailed. (NPR.org, 2021)
“On September 22, 1862, [President] Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation, and on January 1, 1863, he made it official that ‘slaves within any State, or designated part of a State…in rebellion,…shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.’” Although most didn't hear about the proclamation until it was finally executed nationwide years later! (History.com, 2021)
One day, people were property and the next day they were called human beings. Although, the effects of the inhumane treatment to which they were subjected would impact generations for centuries.
Whether a summer holiday is about remembering the dead who gave their lives defending our country, the hardworking individuals who make this country run, the day our country gained its independence or the day melanated Americans gained their true independence, the common way to appreciate the day often involves cookouts, parades and fireworks.
So, we started an annual, intimate family barbeque, discussing what life is like as black people in America over burgers and potato salad. Realizing that no one else on the block was cooking out was disappointing. There were no fireworks going off overhead, even though there had been fireworks blasting on a random Tuesday since before the weather broke. I suspect this year will be different!
“President Biden just signed a bill establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day. The US federal holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and it is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.” (CNN.com, 2021)
Because of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, June 19th is an official Federal Holiday. This special day should motivate Black people to celebrate and conscious non-blacks to commiserate the day this nation finally "passed through a baptism of suffering". (Jacob, 1861) Juneteenth should be accepted and celebrated by all Americans because it's an American Holiday.
How should we celebrate the true Independence Day of Blacks in America? Should we do something big and treat the day the same way we’d treat July 4th? Should there be fireworks and parades marching in the streets? Should there be educational events recognizing the nation's history? Should there be people who dress up in patriotic garb in honor of Juneteenth National Independence Day? Absolutely!
This holiday should be a proud day for all Americans. The day when American slavery came to an end. The day when white America admitted to the atrocities inflicted on the people who helped build the nation.
"I declare, such things ought not to be tolerated in any decent society!" (Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1861)
This Juneteenth, "Let Freedom Ring!" (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1962)
If you’d like to see more from me, kindly give a coin of encouragement.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. (1861). pp. 57, 69, 304