©2023 All Rights Reserved Carole Copeland Thomas • (508) 947-5755 • Carole@mssconnect.com
Celebrating Juneteenth is a relatively new tradition for me. Not because of its significance or historical value but more in alignment with regional awareness. I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and most African Americans who grew up in the Motor City in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s trace their roots to the Southeastern US states. My family hailed from Georgia and South Carolina before migrating to Detroit. Our story was a bit different from those that originated in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and especially Texas. Blacks from those states typically migrated North to the middle of the country and westward when African Americans sought refuge from oppressive Southern racism between the early 1900s to 1970.*
I knew of very few Juneteenth celebrations that happened in Detroit. It would be years later when I fully understood the importance of the day that finally set Texas slaves free. And that recognition has grown to admiration and honor for some 250,000 slaves who heard the news of their freedom two and a half years after President Lincoln freed them via the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth is America's second Independence Day. That phrase was coined by the activists who worked tirelessly to elevate Jubilee Day, now known as Juneteenth, to respectable levels of honor, dignity, and liberation. It took 156 years to make Juneteenth a federal holiday when President Joe Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021. Now is the opportunity to celebrate the "rebirth" of a people whose shackles were finally lifted by General Order No 3 on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas.
Juneteenth is synonymous with celebration. It gives permission for Americans everywhere to barbecue, have fish fries, drink red soda, dance, and spread good news while you party all night. I went to my first Juneteenth community event at Boston's Franklin Park on June 15, 2019. Thousands of Black, Brown, Asian and White metro-Bostonians gathered at Franklin Park in family groupings, sororities, fraternities, and civic organizations for a daylong love fest in tribute to Juneteenth. It was pure love and fellowship, and now, four years later, I can't wipe that smile off my face. The pandemic prevented the festivities from taking place in 2020 and 2021. However, the Juneteenth celebrations resumed at Franklin Park on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Today's activities in Boston on June 17, 2023, will sadly be minimized by heavy rains that saturate the region. However, Juneteenth will be celebrated on Monday, June 19, 2023, in Brockton, Massachusetts, where they've been celebrating the event for many years. Undoubtedly the, Juneteenth will be celebrated throughout the country for the rest of the weekend and beyond.
In her book, On Juneteenth, historian, Harvard law professor, and native Texan Annette Gordon-Reed said it this way:
"People of African descent, and to be honest, of some European descent, celebrating the end of slavery in Texas with dishes learned in slavery and a dish favored by ancient Mesoamerican Indians that connected Texas to its Mexican past; so much Texas history brought together for this one special day."
Professor Gordon-Reed says it best. Juneteenth throws off the shackles of slavery and brings all people together with food, fellowship, and fun. That spirit signifies the second Independence Day for all Americans, including those in the Black Community.
Juneteenth represents the freedom of not just Black people but all Americans to live their lives in the spirit of cross-cultural understanding. That celebratory day in Galveston, Texas is as important in our lifetime as it was way back in 1865.
*To learn more about the great Black migration in the United States, read Isabel Wilkerson's book The Warmth of Other Suns.
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