Why should I care about something that happened so long ago? I’m not a person of color. I’m not a descendant of the formerly enslaved. Why should I care about Juneteenth?
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” –Maya Angelou
What is Juneteenth?
As I prepared to write this post, I asked that question in my Instagram stories. So without searching on Google, do you know what Juneteenth is?
Most of the story poll responses said they knew what Juneteenth was. I learned what it was on June 19, 2020. It’s been a thing since 1865, and I heard of it for the first time last year.
Juneteenth, a combination of June and 19th, is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had officially outlawed slavery almost two and a half years earlier.
Let that settle in for a minute: slavery had already been outlawed. The enslaved were already free according to the law abolishing it. Slavery had ended, but in reality, it hadn’t ended for those that had yet to hear the news.
Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached slaves in Texas.
(I’m a huge believer in original sources of information and documentation. Here’s a link to the official document, which is preserved at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.)
Why should I care about Juneteenth?
I was born in this country to Cuban parents who emigrated to the States in the 1960s. Hispanic Heritage Month takes on special meaning for me because of this. Commemorating this month provides an opportunity for awareness and learning to those that don’t share my ethnicity or culture. I’m pretty thankful for that. I’ve experienced firsthand the care that’s communicated when someone who doesn’t share my ethnicity or heritage is purposeful to learn about it anyway.
Celebrations like Juneteenth help to bridge the gap between us and them.
Juneteenth isn’t just history for people of color, or descendants of the formerly enslaved. It’s American history, and learning about our nation’s history helps us fight the ignorance that can become a breeding ground for division.
Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, and personally, as a woman of faith I want to use this opportunity to practice what it means to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Caring about, and wanting to learn about what impacts my neighbors is just one way I’m trying to fumble forward in love towards others.
Juneteenth in Florida.
Formal Juneteenth events have been primarily celebrated by people in African-American communities in Texas since 1866, and later celebrated in other states. Most states currently recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or observance.
Florida celebrates its own Emancipation Day on May 20th, a month before most of the country celebrates Juneteenth. One month before the news of freedom made it to Galveston, Union Brigadier Gen. Edward M. McCook stopped in Tallahassee to make a similar announcement.
Juneteenth became a part of Florida’s history in 1991, when state legislation designated observance of June 19th as Juneteenth Day in Florida.
Miami’s largest Juneteenth celebration takes place on Saturday, June 19, 2021. The Third Annual Juneteenth Miami Freedom Fry & Music Festival is a celebration of freedom, progress, and unity.
Liberty and justice for all.
Whether or not you’re a history buff like I am, it’s important to care about Juneteenth. I’m hoping this small glimpse into our nation’s history sparks an interest to keep learning. As more people become aware that Juneteenth actually exists, it’s important to learn its history and importance.
Slaves in Texas were free for over two years before they found out.
Can you imagine not knowing about something as important as your freedom for over two years?
July 4, 1776. June 19, 1865. That’s a difference of 89 years. Nearly a century went by before liberty and justice could truly be for all.
May the truth of what others experience move us, and stir our hearts with compassion.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” ―