What is Juneteenth and why should I care?

by Dr. Melody Jackson, Director of Justice, Education, Diversity, and Inclusion
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

First and foremost, slavery has not ended in the United States. FACT!

Second fact: Many folks think that the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery. Well, news flash! It didn’t. The harshest forms of slavery continued in most places for over 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and it is still legal in the US today.

Juneteenth is the day that we remember the cruelty of slavery; the abomination of greed fueled hatred; and the transformative power of exodusian celebration.

Cruelty of slavery: Unfathomable arrogance causes one person to think that it is okay to own another human being. Juneteenth is a day to remember all that is wrong about owning a human being.

Greed fueled hatred: Indubitable greed causes a person to think it is right to own that person for the purpose of making money. Lest we forget that at the heart of slavery was the need for lazy folk to find hard working folk to do the work they needed and wanted but were too much of a sluggard to do themselves.

Exodusian celebration: Exodus is known as the road out and covers all that comes with it – the way people exit bondage, their disposition, their choices. In June 1865 when slaves in Texas were finally told they were free there was not weeping and gnashing of teeth, there was celebration.

The Emancipation Proclamation resulted in freedom for some groups of slaves in 1863 but not all. It only covered slaves in Confederate states. Suffering for many more human beings at the hands of our great American patriots didn’t end until 1865 when the Army rolled in and took control of the state. For more than 2 ½ years, the arrogant slave owners hid freedom from slaves because they needed them to work just a bit longer. What happened? June Nineteenth (Juneteenth) 1865 federal troops rolled into Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and make sure that all enslaved people were freed. Boy oh boy when they did, freed slaves celebrated. We honor not only what was done but the way freed slaves did it. We honor their exodus. The road out was in coming together and praying and fellowshipping in celebration.

We celebrate the road out celebration.

We celebrate the human beings no longer declared by law to be 2/3rd human subjected to whatever kind of demoralizing punishment that those in power decided to inflict upon them.

We remember that history can be flawed and must be understood in whole, not in part. How many folks have been taught in school that slavery in America ended in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation? Juneteenth, we remember to search for the whole truth.

The great exodus of slaves, the great road out in celebration of people no longer in legal bondage is what we celebrate as Juneteenth.

So, if you believe it is wrong for one human to own another, then you should care about Juneteenth.

If you believe we can do better in our legal processes to make sure that those hurt by our laws, rules, and regulations are not further victimized after we change those laws, then you should care about Juneteenth.

If you believe that our whole history should be remembered and not a watered-down version, then you should care about Juneteenth.

If you believe that those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it, then you should care about Juneteenth.

As we celebrate the exodusian way that slaves handled the news that they were no longer subjected to the greed fueled cruelty of slavery, take a moment to remember that in our country slavery and indentured servitude is still very much the law. Slavery is legal as punishment for a crime.

Read more about Juneteenth as it relates to homeownership in our country:

Homeownership is essential for Black lives

“This year, it can be Emancipation Day for all of us and a chance to begin to set right the wrongs of the distant and recent past. We must reverse the loss of Black homeowners and support affordable homeownership for Black people as an essential step toward full citizenship and freedom.”

-Natasha Edwards Pallan, Center for NYC Neighborhoods