Why We Celebrate Juneteenth

June 19, 2021

Why We Celebrate

By now you may have heard the term Juneteenth. I’m here to tell you the history behind it. In short, two and a half (2.5) years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Union Major General Gordon Granger, strolls into Galveston Texas and formally informs Texas residents, and the slaves they held in captivity, that slavery has ended. This happened on June 19, 1865.

But what if I told you the Emancipation Proclamation only ended the bondage of those in confederacy but did not end slavery. History has told us that the Emancipation Proclamation is synonymous with freedom. But the reality is that union slave holding states (Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee and Missouri) all continued the practice of slavery after President Lincoln’s fateful order. You see the objective was not (solely) the abolishing of slavery but the crippling of the confederacy and its economic base. Now eventually, all men and women were released from bondage and thus it is known that in these respective states, certain communities held their own local celebrations highlighting when the slaves were emancipated in their territories.

So why is all of this information so important? Well, we must understand that Juneteenth for many decades was solely a Texas holiday. Over the years black people across the country started to incorporate this holiday for its symbology for the struggle and the removal of America’s greatest sin as a whole. You see, despite the understanding that history does not tell the entire story surrounding our subrogation and bondage, we acknowledge the importance of this story because it is a reminder of one key African American attribute:

“Until ALL of us are free, NONE of us are free”

Thus, is the embodiment of communal aspect of black America. The understanding that despite our own personal wellbeing and current station in life, it is embedded within our DNA that we care for everyone around us.

Ultimately, this is the main take away that I want everyone to have when thinking about what Juneteenth means to America. The idea of community equality. No, the story of nation is not perfect and undoubtedly, we are still dealing with the mistakes of our past, but that is what humanity is all about. Being honest with ourselves and acknowledging those not so perfect scars. The beauty of America is that it is a work in progress, a wonderful mosaic painting filled with vibrant colors, cultures and stories. A true masterpiece under construction.

So, when I tell my children the story of America and ultimately about Juneteenth, I will advise them to consider the lesson I am always teaching them. The goal is to not be perfect, the goal is to be better, because that is the standard of which growth is measured. So be not afraid of the truth of the past, embrace its warts and all, because it’s the imperfections that make the beauty.

Just like the ugly truth that it took a while for the message of freedom to reach the slaves in Texas, the beauty is that eventually, just like all things in life, that the truth will set you free.

Embrace community, embrace love, embrace each other and embrace truth.

Happy Juneteenth!