Official Recognition of Juneteenth as a National Holiday Adds Cause to Celebrate
As a queer man, I am struck by the significance of Juneteenth. As Pride Month is central to my community--to its shared identity and, well, its sense of pride--so is Juneteenth central to the identity and pride of the Black American community. Knowing we share this relationship to ritualistic commemorations only reaffirms my imperative to write this article sensitively, and with the awareness that, while I get marginalization, I am not a Black American and can only hope to do justice to this vibrant community. So here I go, fully aware I might get this all wrong.
Juneteenth commemorates the moment when 2,000 troops moved in on Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, and announced that the enslaved were now free. It is a literal independence day for all Black Americans.
But wait. That was in 1865. Why were people still enslaved after the Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War? Texas had become a stronghold for slave ownership. Following losses, the most significant of which being the capture of New Orleans by the North, slave owners started migrating to Texas where they could continue owning slaves. Juneteenth marks the last major confederate domino to fall.
Trauma passes down in DNA (really!), so today the need to celebrate Juneteenth is more important than ever. It is a day to remember that African Americans are, indeed, free. From my perspective, it seems Black Americans continue to spend their lives bound by the chains thrust upon them by white society. So, like my community with Pride, Black American people must find ways to remind themselves that they really are free.
Trauma is one thing, knowledge is another. The knowledge that people had been enslaved in this country until only recently is crushing. This knowledge is a constant reminder that we undervalue our people and alienate our diverse communities. It is a call for change.
So yes, it’s Pride Month. But like Pride Month, Juneteenth goes beyond the calendar. On June 19th, there are conferences, local events, and extensive family gatherings. This is such an important milestone in the African American community that it calls for Christmas-like family festivities.
And that’s understandable. The inhumanity of slavery cannot be overstated. What’s more, the historical implications are still rippling through our time. That’s why it is so important that Juneteenth was finally recognized by the US House of Representatives as a federal holiday. Slavery is done, but racist systems remain in its wake.
Juneteenth is a day to celebrate with certainty that black is beautiful. It is a day to celebrate freedom and all that it means, and all the tragic, beautiful, sad, wonderful human things that come with it.
This post was contributed by LifeRing writer Vince.
LifeRing celebrates diversity and inclusivity. Learn more about Celebrating Juneteenth.