Happy Juneteenth! What is Juneteenth? Juneteenth is a day African Americans celebrate the recognition of a Presidential declaration acknowledging our freedom. I say acknowledging because it is important to realize that African Americans were born free in the image of God but made to live as slaves by a cruel and vicious system in America. So we weren’t “set free” by Whites, it was just acknowledged that we were people God intended to experience the freedoms He intended.
I first celebrated Juneteenth in the early 1970’s in Oakland, CA. Oakland was a diverse city and many newcomers brought traditions I have never heard of. When I was first invited to a Juneteenth celebration I asked, “What’s that?” After it was explained to me, I balked at the idea of celebrating that slaves in Texas found out they were free 2 years after the event. But I went because it was a social event. I was amazed to learn so much about my own history. The beauty of my culture was revealed to me in a new light. Since then, I have regarded Juneteenth as an important day for me and my people. It really should be recognized nationally.
I personally cannot celebrate Independence Day on July 4th because that was the day a document was signed, by the fathers, that branded my ancestors as “chattel.” The Declaration of Independence was never intended to grant me freedom or independence. I nor my people were included in thought or deed. But Juneteenth is a day I can wear my colors boldly, enjoy the cultural significances of our people, and proudly reflect on the contributions, the many valuable contributions in every realm that we, as a people, have added to the country we call home.
This year Juneteenth has a specialness like no other for me and my family. It’s the 100th year Anniversary of The Tulsa Race Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” My mother-in-law’s family lived in Tulsa during that time. Many of them moved out of the area in the aftermath of the riots. So we will celebrate the greatness of Greenwood this Juneteenth.
So, today I celebrate. With joy I reflect on the many memories of my ancestors. Today I will share stories with my children they have heard a thousand times or more, but they will still listen as if it’s their first time. Today, I’ll remember the great heroes of my community, many unknown, those who invested in my life and caused me to embrace the dignity of pride of my blackness. Today, I will play the old Negro spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” which is written in a minor key, but I will end it with a major chord.
Happy Juneteenth Day to you…to all of you regardless of your skin color. Because today I am celebrating my American freedom and this freedom is incomplete without your participation.