One hundred and fifty seven years ago, on June 19th 1865, General Gordon Granger of the Union Army Galveston Texas made the announcement that the last of the enslaved people in the Confederacy were freed. That may seem like it was a great thing, and even though it was, this announcement was two years late since President Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation on January 1, 1863.
The meaning of Juneteenth has transcended time and evolved from a celebration of freedom from slavery to shining a light on the injustices that affect black Americans today.
Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday in 1980. In 2020 momentum built in other states for a federal and state Juneteenth holiday. This year on June 20, 2022 Juneteenth is recognized as a new federal holiday, making it the first new federal holiday since Martin King Luther Day in 1983.
As an immigrant born black individual, I did not know much about Juneteenth beyond what I learnt in history class. As a Caribbean native, I was not exposed to racial issues as I have come to understand by living in the United States. In Jamaica we have our issues, but racism was not one of them.
Hence racism was new to me. In all my years living here I have never been racial profiled, however, that does not take away from the struggles faced by so many of our black ancestors and present day individuals.
As the unrest and incidents surrounding black Americans continued to increase, my study on the issues affecting blacks past and present increased. I wanted to know more about the hardships my ancestors faced and wanted to learn how I could help educate not only persons of different races, but also, persons just like me who did not grow up having to worry about racial injustices.
Today, I am happy that the historical and present day struggles of black people are been highlighted and even commemorated with a federal holiday. However, I would be happier to see black history be more than an after thought or something that is used to promote political agendas. So much of our history has been excluded from school curriculums, thereby so many persons that sadly include our black children are operating from a place of ignorance.
On June 19 2022, whether you decide to celebrate or not please consider using the day to educate those around you or even yourself on the history and significance of Juneteenth and what is means to us as black people.
Until next time..Be the light!