Juneteenth: Then and Now

For more than 150 years, Juneteenth has been commemorated in the annals of history as it represents the last brick of slavery to fall.

On June 19, 1865, our forefathers were given the good news by Union Army General Gordon Granger (who was acting on behalf of the President of the United States) that slaves were granted freedom in the state of Texas. African Americans were to be immediately released from the conditions and terms of those who held them bound.

However, the state of Texas had not surrendered to its decree although the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect two years prior in 1863.

At that time, the American Civil War was still raging. In addition, the Confederacy, made up of states whose main source of income relied widely on agriculture planted and harvested by slaves, remained a lucrative business. Therefore, Texans held onto their slaves for as long as they could — until that fateful date of June 19.

Exactly one year after African-American independence was enforced, a group of freed slaves thought it necessary to commemorate the event that changed the trajectory of American history. Thus, “Juneteenth” was born.

In the 21st century, it is unacceptable that African Americans still have to proclaim — by way of protest — that Black lives matter.

In writing this article, I was able to have a pleasant conversation about Juneteenth with a very bright, Hampton University graduate who made this profound statement: “Society picks and chooses what is acceptable from the African-American culture.”

In other words, until “society” gives the stamp of approval, African Americans may not have the go-ahead, like other ethnic groups, to freely embrace their culture. Seriously?

Back then, slaves were supposed to finally be free and equal, yet they were advised by the government to stay at their homes — still owned by their former masters — and work for wages. They didn’t even receive support from the government to finally begin establishing themselves as freed individuals. Society had chosen for the African-American people — to remain operating under the master-slave narrative.

Could it be that the slave owner mentality of “I still own you,” “You’re not entitled,” “You need me to survive,” still exists in the recesses of the minds of the descendants of slaves, today?

This is control, suppression and intolerance in its purest form.

After 150 years of freedom, so-called equality and our many significant contributions to the fabric of this country, African Americans are still struggling to push past the resistance of their White counterparts. Moreover, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s National Poll on Children’s Health(NPCH), which is published by the University of Michigan, has documented racial inequality as the number one concern of African-American parents.

From every vantage point — looking back, around or  ahead — racial inequalities against African Americans still exist.

Interestingly enough, Blacks are deemed inferior, yet society appropriates certain characteristics, such as hairstyles (cornrows, braids and afros), body shapes (curves and buttocks) or facial features (voluminous lips), that are endemic of the African-American culture. It is, as Mike Tyson would say, “ludicrous.”

Nonetheless, African Americans are dying in the street simply becausethey are African American. They are imprisoned at disproportionate rates and they are being removed and shut out of their neighborhoods due to gentrification. Am I being overly sensitive?

When speaking to the mothers of slain African Americans of the Black Lives Matter movement during her 2016 run for the White House, Hillary Clinton explained that to make an impacting change, you have to change legislation. To put it simply: protests are popular, forums are informative, but laws change the game.

Is it enough to celebrate freedom, education and some achievements without equality? Shouldn’t we use freedom, education and our achievements todemandthe right to equality? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”

Juneteenth is a time of celebration and commemoration. Thousands of lives were lost in the struggle for freedom. For this, we owe our gratitude to those that come before us. However, it is not enough to only observe the day.

This Juneteenth, join me in contacting our elected officials to tell them what legislation you want to see in the near future; impact change as Hilary Clinton stated. Then, go join in on the festivities. Each community celebrates in different ways, including hosting barbeques, music, dance and art events as well as group discussions. Specifically in Chicago, I counted almost 20 diverse events, ranging from career networking and movie screenings to vape and paint sessions and dinner at a local supper club.

Make this Juneteenth a day that changes the trajectory of your life. Get up, get out and get involved in a Juneteenth celebration near you. For more ideas, visit www.eventbrite.com.

Marnita Coleman is an author and host of The Marnita Show, a parenting show heard daily across the globe.  For more information, log onto TheMarnitaShow.com.


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