Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Originally posted on LinkedIn June 7, 2020
June 19th is a holiday the majority of the White community doesn’t know about, much less celebrate. It could also be the easiest, most obvious anecdote in healing the divide between the Black and White communities. So much of where we are in this is because of our ignorance. I feel that much of the White community has been oblivious to the subjugation and violence experienced daily by our Black community – until now.
If you don’t know what Juneteenth is, allow me to educate you. This holiday, known as freedom day, is widely celebrated in the Black community. It was on June 19, 1865, that the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued on January 1, 1863, was read to enslaved African-Americans in Texas by Gordon Granger. Until that day, many local slaves did not know that they were free. As it was illegal for slaves to learn to read in many of those southern states they had not been appropriately informed. Thus, they had lived an additional two plus years in servitude needlessly. Many white slave owners who had made their fortunes through slave labor negated to inform them of the events.
Now here is one of our greatest downfalls. As White folks, we don’t acknowledge this holiday, nor does our government. My experience and friendships have shown me that this is both hurtful and disrespectful to our Black community. It’s another careless way in which we negate both their struggle and perseverance. Because this isn’t a federal holiday, our White community is largely ignorant to the symbolism and importance of Juneteenth. By failing to acknowledge their freedom we also negate the fact that slaves literally built our country. And they did it for free. Yet, we celebrate Columbus, someone who raped and pillaged America. But we don’t celebrate Juneteenth – the day all Black men, women, and children were freed – one of our greatest successes.
I can only imagine that if I were Black, this would be yet another way I would feel unseen, unappreciated, and neglected. And we all know how detrimental it is to our families when we fail to nourish and love them. More often than not, they fail to be as healthy, happy or as prosperous as they could be. Why? Because we didn’t give them the respect and support that we all need as living, breathing human beings.
Not only should Juneteenth be a federal holiday, but also every town should host an educational forum on that day. I envision town squares filled with people dancing, children playing and everyone learning more about Black culture. Storytelling is such a dynamic way for us all to learn more about our history. I can see the young and old sharing their experiences at these events and bringing much needed awareness. But, we must be there to listen.
Would anyone argue that our best music came from the Black community? It wasn’t until the last few years that we were made aware of the Black women who wrote the code for space travel. (Film: Hidden Figures.) That had been a well kept secret from us all. There’s so much to be celebrated and learned regarding Black America.
No matter how late to the game some of us come as adults, it’s imperative that our children know a better way. Together, we can build a new future. And I for one am more than ready. Will 2020 be the year that our country begins to publically celebrate Juneteenth? I can’t think of a simpler way to show our respect and support for the Black community than this. Not everyone is a protester. But we are all lifetime students. And it is past time we begin to learn more about the Black experience.