Juneteenth is an American holiday popular within the African American community that commemorates the June 19, 1985 announcement of the abolition of slavery in the Confederate States. It was on this day that union soldiers arrived in Galveston, TX to announce that the war had ended and that the enslaved African Americans were now officially free, physically anyway.
If you know your history, you’ll notice a discretion with the date. The Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln became official on January 1, 1863, two years prior. There are many stories floating around about why they weren’t informed sooner, some claim the man who was to deliver the message was murdered and others think this was a deliberate act to continue receiving free labor. I tend to agree with the later, but no matter the reason, we all weren’t “free”.
Here I am now some 156 years later reflecting on the horror my ancestors faced and the sacrifice they made for us. I am a native black american with my lineage stretching back to the 1870 census and beyond. I ponder the time in between now and then, how far we have come and how far we still have to go. There has been great efforts put into hiding, alternating and downright erasing a large part of history. Many who live in this great nation don’t even know the true history of the land they inhabit. The United States of America is the land of opportunity solely because of the forced labor of my ancestors and the genocide of Native American’s.
I am located in the area where the first slave ships were said to arrive in 1619, the 400th year anniversary. Energetically, I have felt a number of things; anger, sadness, rage, acceptance, and honor to name a few. Many people want us to be ashamed of our history, but I’m not. It says a lot for my ancestors that experienced and made it out of Chattel Slavery, the worst of its kind in the entire world. Make no mistake this isn’t oppression Olympics, but lets not pretend to not know and recognize the vast differences.
There has been a lot of buzz about reparations and correcting the wrongdoings of the US government. I recognize the #ADOS (American Descendant of Slaves) movement for doing the ground work and pushing the fact based initiative all the way to the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington DC last week. While there has been a lot of push back around this movement, its important to keep emotions in check while looking at factual data and understanding why so many are standing behind it. There are many supportive, conflicted and opposing views and while everyone is entitled to their own opinions, whats crystal clear is this conversation is long overdue.
I’m thankful for the perseverance of those who came before me and I will continue to celebrate and shine light on the forgotten.