It is only fitting that the holiday that recognizes the end of enslavement is made a holiday so late after the actual act, because it perfectly mimics the entire reason for Juneteenth in the first place.
Old Abe may have signed the Proclamation but Texas being Texas and leaning into their desire to be a whites-only state, refused to release the more than 250,000 enslaved people who lived in the state until federal troops paid them a visit two years later. The troops arrived in Galveston in June 1967, and let the state and the Black folk themselves know that they were free.
Thus was born Juneteenth, since the actual day is lost in history and Black folk being Black folk, they didn’t let a little thing like a date stop them from starting the celebration.
The celebrations eventually spread from Galveston to other cities in Texas, most notably, Houston, where parades and festivals are part of the annual landscape of celebrations.
The signing of the law caught many Americans off guard so much so that white people didn’t have time to be angry because most knew nothing about Juneteenth. Most were still mad about another “Black” thing they know nothing about — critical race theory.
Interestingly enough, the lack of knowledge in white America about Juneteenth is more proof that critical race theory is needed in schools. That Black Americans could celebrate our historical emancipation and do so for over 100 years and most white Americans have no awareness of us doing so and why we do so, speaks to the woefully inadequate education of white people in public and private schools, from grade school through graduate.
It makes sense in the very American way that we celebrate the president who signed the proclamation — a white man — but not the “people” who endured hundreds of years of chattel enslavement.
Now that it is a federal holiday, the racists and the joy thieves are out in full force, attempting to steal the joy of the people who built the country and the people who worked for decades to make the limited holiday a federally recognized holiday.
White Americans celebrate Irish, Norwegian, German, Italian, Scandinavian, English, and other European-based white-ethnic holidays, but all of a sudden, the racists are now out claiming that Juneteenth is ruining their lives.
All holidays matter, right?
It doesn’t replace any other holiday and white people aren’t losing anything. Independence Day for America still exists and you can still have picnics.
The racists and haters have known about Juneteenth for eighteen hours but somehow their little isolated lives in their all-white neighborhoods are aflame because Black people are doing what we want and recognizing the fullness of our ancestor’s perseverance.
And then there are the Black joy thieves who are mad that Juneteenth doesn’t solve reparations, grant free health care, fix underfunded schools, end police brutality, or stop voter suppression. That crowd is happily shitting on the work of so many people, most notably Ms. Opal Lee, the 94-year-old Texan who has worked for decades to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday.
In 2016, at 89 years old, Lee, a former teacher and lifelong activist, walked from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to the nation’s capital in an effort to get Juneteenth named a national holiday.
The disrespect on social media from a certain group of Black intellectuals is disheartening but not unexpected with a group who will always stop good for great, who will always downplay progress that doesn’t meet their litmus tests, and who will always move the posts to satisfy their need to be contrarian.
Yes, there is more work to do and that will always be true. But that doesn’t mean we cannot pause a moment to celebrate large and small milestones and achievements. We celebrate small accomplishments because, as time passes, small accomplishments grow and ripple into a future of significant changes.
Small and symbolic changes are the fuel for large and life-alternating change, and they are how we bring forth the next wave of activists, leaders, thinkers, and doers — because they see small advances and use those as their personal inspiration to do more and do better.
President Biden and Vice President Harris realize the importance of symbolism. President Biden said he believes signing Juneteenth into law will be considered one of the most significant accomplishments of his administration. And Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black vice president, also gave Lee her due in her remarks, saying, “And looking out across this room, I see the advocates, the activists, the leaders, who have been calling for this day for so long, including the one and only Ms. Opal Lee.”
Ms. Opal Lee, who was at the White House for the signing — and who saw President Biden kneel in front of her to acknowledge her — said she hopes the federal holiday will help educate people about what happened and “decide that this doesn’t have to happen again.” She also hopes Juneteenth will become a day of national unity.
A day of national unity.
Beautiful words we all need to hear and live.
Happy 156th Juneteenth.
© 2021 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.
Myron J. Clifton is slightly older than fifty, lives in Sacramento, California, and is an avid Bay Area sports fan. He likes comic books, telling stories about his late mom to his beloved daughter Leah, and talking to his friends.
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