Celebrating Freedom

  • MEGAN VALNES
  • 06/23/21

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (something I actually want to do), you’ve heard about the newly federally recognized holiday, Juneteenth. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is the celebration of the final end of slavery for Black Americans. 

Although Abraham Lincoln declared the freedom of slaves in Confederate States in 1863, news, especially news that did not benefit the white men in power, traveled slowly back then. Like two years slow. And so, it was not until June 19, 1865 that the news of emancipation from the bondage of slavery reached those still enslaved in the state of Texas. 

Hence, Juneteenth; the day when slavery was truly abolished in The United States of America.

Seems like an excellent day for a holiday, right? Black Americans have been celebrating their collective freedom from the horrors of slavery every year since it happened--156 years of rejoicing, singing, dancing, and praying. 

And yet, most White Americans, or non-black Americans, had never even heard of Juneteenth until recently. And like most things that seem totally non-political, this celebration has somehow become political because it was declared a Federal Holiday. 

And this is the part where I shake my head and roll my eyes and crawl back under my rock where such silliness does not exist.

Of all the Federal Holidays, I would say Juneteenth is one of the most noble and worthy days of being officially observed and honored. And boy, is it a long time coming. 

As a nation that celebrates Columbus Day, a day that marks the beginning of the systematic genocide of indigenous people on this land, I guess it’s not too surprising that we ignored Juneteenth for so long. After all, history is greatly subjective. The history told by Americans of European descent is often vastly different than the history told by Indigenous Americans, which differs from the historical accounts of Americans of African descent. 

Just Google “origins of Thanksgiving”. 

While there may be tremendous disparity among the accounts of nationally recognized holidays with origins in antiquity, Juneteenth seems pretty straightforward as there’s not much debate over the actual events that happened. 

My point here is, why would anyone complain or obviate the national acknowledgment of such a wonderful day in history? A day worth celebrating? Slavery is a stubborn stain on the fabric of our country’s history, something we cannot go back and undo, but we can at least recognize it’s impact on millions of people and raise our voices in the celebration of it’s abolition. 

Juneteenth is not about going backwards and reliving that terrible past, it’s about moving forward and raising awareness about the importance of Black culture and practices in America. Some people may feel it calls to separate Americans more, however, I think it brings us together. This is a holiday that was unofficially celebrated in our country for more than 150 years, and now with its federal recognition, we are all called to celebrate it together!

I think people may be collectively taking Juneteenth personally, as if seeing it makes us non-blacks bad and wrong. This is flawed thinking. The emancipation of slavery is a reason for every American to celebrate, not just African Americans.

Only when we acknowledge a painful event can we move forward in healing. Ignoring profound wounding only causes festering and infection, eventually making that wound so much worse. If we give the wound some attention, care for it, and make moves to treat it, we can become healthy again. The scar reminds us not to do that thing which caused the wounding again.  

I am not a political person at all. For me, Juneteenth has nothing to do with the President who signed its Federal Recognition into existence, although good on him for doing so. 

As a warrior for justice and unity, I applaud the initiative. In the future, I hope we can all come together on this wonderful memorial of the day when we all became free from the shackles of slavery. A dark sin like slavery affects everyone involved and we as a nation could have never advanced in awareness and consciousness if such an atrocity had been allowed to continue. And this is the crux of why Juneteenth matters for every single American.

Happy Freedom Day! 

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