Seventeenth on Juneteenth
Happy Emancipation Day beautiful people! On this day 155 years ago, the very last slaves - in Galveston, Texas - were freed. Two years after the initial Emancipation Proclamation, and in the aftermath of the Civil War, those slaves could finally join others across the United States of America and live lives of more than just labor, abuse, and horror. While slavery in other forms continued, and Black people weren't ever truly freed, we celebrate Juneteenth because of the weight it carries and message it conveys. "None of us are free until all of us are free."
That day was June 19, 1865, exactly 138 years before I was born. Today I am seventeen, and I feel more grateful than ever to have been born on such a significant day.
For as long as I can remember I have been telling everyone who would listen, "My birthday is a HOLIDAY! Don't you know Juneteenth?" While I shared this information with the same level of enthusiasm and know-it-all energy each time, more often than not I was met with a blank stare. Did people not know about Juneteenth? While I could fault Black parents and Black peers for not realizing the significance of this day, the blame once again truly falls on the American government and education system. I was taught about the American Revolution, that on July 4, 1776, we were finally free! Rejoice! No more tea tax! I was not taught, about the fact that "independence" was just another right "reserved for whites". I was not taught, that it would be nearly another century before my ancestors could shed their chains and shackles and attempt to get back some of what they had given to this land.
Make no mistake, this erasure was intentional. If we don't learn about the jubilant Southern celebration of Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, we don't realize how long it took to get there. Meaning that they don't have to acknowledge that when their Founding Fathers were writing that "all men are created equal", they didn't mean Black people. While white Americans celebrated their freedom from the British on the fourth of Ju-LIE, my ancestors were left in the dust for another 90 years.
In short, I hope that this resurgence and newfound publicizing of Juneteenth will make people rethink what they know about this country. I am happy to see people acknowledge what I have celebrated all my life. I know that I wouldn't be able to have my ice cream cake today if my ancestors hadn't been finally freed all those years ago. Happy Juneteenth, the real Independence Day.