What are you and your family doing to celebrate Juneteenth this year?
“Juneteenth” is worthy of contemplation and memorial. The word is a portmanteau of “June” and “-teenth” and symbolizes the legacy of injustices done Blacks in this country. It honors African-American heritage by commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865. Blacks should begin special activities on or about June 19 each year. June 19, 1865, is when the last slaves in America were freed. Juneteenth is a date for African-Americans to recognize and organize to collectively expose truths about the African-American slave experience and aftermath.
Consider celebrating your lineage. The question is: who do you think you are? Cultural identity is part of one’s self-perception and is related to nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, generation, locality or any kind of social group’s own distinct culture. Juneteenth is important to African-Americans because it can bring a sense of togetherness celebrating the anniversary of the end of slavery. All blacks should have active involvement in Juneteenth. Such actions will represent: remembering our history and a movement to bring friends and neighbors together to reflect, learn from each other and grow together.
Don’t forget where you came from. It’s imperative that African-Americans start unabashedly appreciating our ancestors’ contributions and constantly reminding the world of the trillions of unpaid dollars owed us. Generations of black slaves financed the growth of the world’s greatest power. Though “the Debt” is still alive and real, slavery conjures up negative images for blacks so much so we fail to realize the economic contributions we made to the United States’ development into a world power. This lack of realization stems from too many in our race’s shame of slavery and concomitant national denial both blacks and whites have bought into. Through their shame of slavery, African-Americans continue to let the debt we are owed to linger instead of steadfastly demanding payment.
It’s time we acknowledge that blacks have been robbed from the outset. And, have important discussions about issues based on race that persists. The election of the first black president never nullified racial grievances, nor bridged racial differences or erased racial animosities. In reality, racial attitudes in politics have become more fraught with denials of racism and reverse racism as a subterfuge of resentment and prejudice.
Calculations of our ancestors’ coerced and uncompensated labor totals more than $14 trillion in today’s money. Yet, African-Americans will continue yielding to the empty symbolism of Obama as president rather than being in the vanguard of a movement to be paid just reparations. Not matter how “integrated” you get in American society, blacks must never forget our ancestors’ endurance of one of human history’s worst experiences in human history. Don’t forget the inheritance that every American benefits from, created by blacks’ free, involuntary labor.
Contemporary Juneteenth celebrants range from The Black Land and Liberation Initiative to institutional sponsors such as the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum. The number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees is growing. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation is working to gain Congressional approval to designate Juneteenth a national day of observance. By 2008, nearly half of U.S. states observed the holiday as a ceremonial observance. As of 2016, 45 U.S. states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday, or as a day of observance.
Let’s use the concept of Juneteenth to start a tradition of empowerment. Annually, we need to come together and retrace roots to ancestors who were held in illegal bondage, as we exchange artifacts and stress responsibility to strive for legislation of recompense. Juneteenth today celebrates African-American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development. Let’s use Juneteenth is a time for assessment, self-improvement and planning. Mature black families across the country are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence us today. We cannot win being estranged. Blacks must come together to make significant and lasting achievements.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.