Juneteenth. A holiday I’ve celebrated practically my whole life as a Black woman from Texas. It’s been in the news a lot since last year, and just this week it was recognized as a federal holiday. This means that going forward we should get the benefits of that in corporate America. Whether it’s time off or holiday pay; it should be recognized.
Folks love to cheer about freedom on July 4th, but in all actuality, everyone wasn’t freed that day in 1776. In fact, it took until the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863 for slavery to be outlawed in this great nation…and another two and a half years before it reached the South. Some may say it’s because news traveled a lot slower back then, but I think it has something to do with the fact that Southern slave owners wanting to hold onto what little bit of perceived power they had over the enslaved they held. And if we really want to be honest with history then it’s probably worth noting that Lincoln didn’t really give a damn about freeing slaves and even offered a truce and would’ve let slavery continue if the South had conceded. But folks love to graze over that fact.
Juneteenth is a holiday that a lot of folks don’t know much about, and that’s really sad. Since it’s the celebration of the day that the enslaved found out that they were free in Galveston, it seemed like a regional holiday but in actuality, it’s not. The holiday grew in popularity as Black people migrated across the nation and continued to celebrate. This lack of education about the history of slavery in this nation and this holiday, in particular, makes me nervous about the sudden knee-jerk signing of it as a federal holiday. Now I’m not saying that people haven’t fought hard FOR YEARS for it to be a federal holiday, but the timing on it is weird. I don’t want this joyous holiday to become bastardized by corporations like MLK Day has and for us as a country to lose sight of why and what we’re celebrating.
We’ve made strides as a Black community, but we still have to deal with the consequences of years of Jim Crow, decades of discrimination in housing and employment, voter disenfranchisement, and the ongoing cruelties of mass incarceration and criminalization. In fact, TO ME it kind of feels like a slap in the face that this was all of a sudden made a federal holiday when we’ve been asking for all of those other things for so much longer. Juneteenth is a federal holiday and we still don’t have an anti-lynching law.
Make that make sense.
As US Rep Cori Bush said:
So today we celebrate (like we always do on Juneteenth), and tomorrow we continue to fight. I purposely chose a flight this afternoon that would allow me to attend the Juneteenth celebration and block party at the National Museum of African American Music here in Nashville and I plan on having a blast there. In fact, I might as well sign up for my annual membership because I’ll definitely be back on a regular basis. What about you? How do you plan on celebrating Juneteenth?