Why I Believe That Juneteenth Is Important

I wrote this blog entry in 2009  (as you can see from the already published comments)  in response to me debating with some friends on twitter about the importance of Juneteeth. While me making my case I came up with half of this. The other half was lost in a data transfer a year or so later. When I discovered I lost half of this entry I decided to edit what I had and add everything I lost since I had a more expanded view of the world, learned new things and what not and so forth. I started that editing in June in 2012. It is now June 20th 2013 and Im finally publishing this… again. A lot of life got in the way between now and then lol.

I was determined to finish this before Juneteeth to re-spite my good friends Calvin and Eman since I had to take this down lol. But for a whole lot of reasons, that didnt happen. I guess thats what I get for being spiteful lol. So thats why this is not being published on or before Juneteeth.

So this is around 4 or 5 years worth of thinking about the subject of Juneteeth and why I believe that it is Important for Black people.

Thanks for reading.

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Today is Juneteenth and all day I’ve been debating some of my friends who say Juneteenth is not worth celebrating. Main reason being, that we should have never been enslaved in the first place. A point I used to have myself. I actually used to share the same opinions and views as the friends Ive been debating all morning. But now I see things differently and its not just because we have a Black president ( for real this time ).

I see things differently now because I now realize the power of information and knowledge. Speaking of which, if youre not all the way sure what Juneteenth is about, I invite you to educate your self http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteeth

I think what a lot of people fail to realize  is, when Black people were enslaved in America, we were not only deprived of our freedom, we had no rights; no options; we were forced to work; we had masters; we were considered sub-human.
But the biggest thing those who enslaved us wanted to deny us was education and information. The less you know as a person, the easier you are to control. Its been proven through out time. Also whats been proven through out time is: Knowledge (and information)  is power!

Juneteeth is a shining example of that fact. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in Septemeber 1862 and to take effect January 1863. Except for the people of the “great” state of texas decided NOT TO TELL or recognize that slaves had been free for two and a half years.
On June 19th 1865, the Black people of texas were informed by Union troops that they had been freed 2.5 years previous.

This was 148 years ago. There is some debate over when race-based slavery became official in America, but we all know it lasted over 350 years for sure. Over 350 years of slavery vs. 148 years of freedom (although Jim Crow and… just whatever, you get it).

To put that into perspective. Imagine somebody got 2.5 years of free work from you. If that’s not bad enough, not only free work, but you were also held in bondage against your will on top of that. Imagine if you were imprisoned for no reason and forced to work for an undisclosed amount of time. Then one day, a law is passed that exonerates you (and a bunch of your friends and family) of these BS charges, however, the Warden decided not to tell you that you were free for 2.5 years. And he only did it because somebody basically held a gun to that mans head. But, if you would have had some contact with the outside world (lets pretend they don’t have TV’s or Internet in jail) or if one of the guards decided to speak up and would have simply informed you about this new law, you could have just walked out of the front door. But you didnt, because this information was kept from you on purpose.

Think about all the people that were whipped and didnt have to be. Think about all the work that was done that nobody was paid for. Think about wishing for freedom you really already had but you just didnt know it! Didnt know if it would ever come. But it had come; 2.5 years ago. No matter how hard I try, I cant imagine how that really must feel.
I think its hard for people in these more civilized times to really know what that means or possibly feels like. I dont think most people can see life from that perspective, so its hard for them to consider things from the side of the people who were actually living that life. A movie can only show you so much.

On June 19th, 1865, the last slaves were free’d in America. These former slaves, just free’d and previously free’d covered various age groups and all had one thing in common. They could not read or write. They were uneducated. Back then, educating a slave was punishable by death or life in prison. If a slave owner noticed that slave could read or write or had any kind of education, he was put to death immediately and publicly to pump fear into the hearts of other slaves.

Slaves even kept other slaves from trying to educate themselves, not to be mean, but because they didnt want to see that person murdered. I’m not sure that anybody reading this (even me, who is typing this out) can comprehend the levels of ignorance there was among slaves; through no fault of their own, it was a matter of life or death.

So now you have millions of free people who no longer have a real home. No education or working knowledge of anything not related to working for free and being given the essentials to live. Everything they ever did or had was provided to them by their owners. Now where were they going to work? Where were they going to live? How were they to make money to support themselves? The only thing they knew how to do was be a slave, through no fault of their own. Now they have been free’d through no effort of their own. There wasnt a big slave rebellion where every slave turned on their masters, took arms and fought their way out of bondage. So this means that slaves had no post slavery plans made by slaves. It just all of a sudden happen one day for the most part. Im sure these people were beyond happy. But as soon as they took their first steps into freedom, their 2nd step said: Now What? Where do we go from here?
These now free people were given nothing, except their freedom. 40 acres and a mule never happen.

I feel like that very moment was Act 2 of our story in America. Act 2: Now What?

Black people are now free, but uneducated and ignorant to life beyond slavery. Not all Black people, but most of most Black people. However, we absolutely must make a way out of some way. Like I said, we were given nothing but our freedom.  Not only that, but in the places where we were just free’d, the people around there were not all that cool with the idea of Black people running around free as a bird… amongst them.

In addition to being treated as subhuman, STILL. We were free, but didnt have the same rights as every one else. We couldnt live in the same neighborhoods; go to the same churches and schools etc and we were only to realize that some time later.
Some would argue that after slavery, Black people stepped right into a brand new Hell. These people knew nothing, but had to function as if they did. They needed shelter, food, clothes with no way to real way to get these things. They had to start over, with out ever having a real start to begin with. Me personally, I can see how that would represent a brand new Hell. However, to me, there was one little light that began to shine when the slaves were free’d. That little part that meant that we were now “allowed” to learn. We could openly learn to read and write with out having to be scared of being put to death on the spot. Thats huge. Very huge. Its like momentum swing in sports.

When we were openly “allowed” to learn, we then took control of our own future. At that point, it was up to US to do better for US. Regardless of what he had been through or what was in our way immediately after slavery, we controlled our future after that.  Yes, I acknowledge that there were plenty of hurdles in our way; all types of hurdles, too many to name, more than I even care to name. But so what?
The point is, an educated person can only be oppressed for so long. Knowledge IS power. Power to change your condition, situation, perspective, all of that. Power to make a better life for your self. A life that you control with the knowledge you bother to obtain.
Slavery went on for so long because the slaves werent allowed to educate themselves, its the first and most important rule in slavery. Slaves must be kept ignorant. This key point has been documented by slave owners many many times. The slaves in the “great” state of texas were only kept an additional 2.5 years because nobody told them. The information was kept from them. Education for slaves meant rebellion. Thats what you dont want from people who work as long as possible. Chances are, most of them are in better shape than you for starters lol.

Note: I wrote this entry in 2009, but some how I lost half of it so I had to start over for the most part  (probably when I switched this site from Expression Engine back over to WordPress). Now its 2012 (when i began to add and re-edit this- its now June 2013) and its 147 years later since the last slave was free’d……. and I’m republishing this lol.

With slavery officially ending only 148 years ago, that means most of the Grandparents of Black people in this country knew a slave at some point. They didnt know an African that was captured and brought over here against their will. They knew a person who was born into generatoins of bondage and was once owned by another human and had no knowledge of where they really came from. They didnt know any traditions, “old ways” or lifestyle, language, community structure, way of life, religion, ethics, all that, any of that. Our whole past was wiped out over the generations of slaves, our identity as a people is gone.

Maybe Act 2 shouldnt be named “Now what?” but “The Rebirth”.

With out any knowledge of our past and history, with no education or knowledge beyond slavery we were out on our own. Free for the most part and most importantly, free to learn.
So on this day 148 years ago, I feel like Black people were reborn. On that day we became the most unique people on the planet. Since that day, we have been making a way out of no way. We have been making the best out of what we have or dont have. We have been surviving the most hellaious conditions any people with “equal rights” have ever had to put up with. We have seen our way through a lot of things that were just down right unfair. We have been murdered, jailed, oppressed, segregated, all of that. Yet we have still manged to fight our way from complete ignorance and slavery to being the most unique people and some of the most famous people in the world.
No matter what has been placed in front of us, we have beat it. We may not have fought for our own freedom, but its been a 148 year fight since then and we have not taken one second off;  and we never will, Black president or not. No matter what law that makes racism ok, or that targets Black people. No matter how uneven the playing field, we have made a way.

Look how far we have come from complete ignorance in the last 148 years. All the things we have over come as a people. All the things we have accomplished as a people. Im not saying we dont have a ways to go. But we went from being not “allowed” to learn anything to building all Black colleges. What other group of people have colleges in this country that arent white? I’ll wait. Even if you do find one, how many are there? There are several Black Colleges in this country. I could go on and on and on about how far we have come as a people with out having a Black President. I wont mention the fact that, before Barack Obama, older Black people really didnt believe they would ever see a Black President, and younger Black people thought they would be an old Black person before they saw a Black President. Certainly not as soon as 2008 lol. I know I didnt.

I feel like the one thing you hear most Black people say is “We have to do better”. I also think, that is the ONE and only thing that 100% of Black people will all agree on. We have to do better as a people.

From the moment the very last slaves were free’d; after they got on their respective knees and shouted “Thank God Almighty, Im free at last!!”. They looked around, got up and said “Ok, we gotta do better than this”. Nobody that any one knows was there to see it, but we all know its true. You would want to think that these newly free’d people celebrated their freedom. But I ask you, how? How did they celebrate? With what? Where? In front of white people that were forced to free them? Doubtful.

Since our first steps into freedom, we have been about “Doing Better”. We havent stopped trying to do better (as a whole) since June 19th, 1865. We havent taken one day off; and I know for sure, not one Black person in this country plans to. Rather they want to do better as a whole or just to represent themselves.

I believe “We still have a long way to go” goes with out saying. I think we should take time out to acknowledge, as a people, where we are and exactly how far we have come. I feel like “We still have a long way to go” acknowledges that we have come from some where. We need to know exactly how far that was to where we are now. Thats how you progress and move forward. That can be applied to every Black person individually and us as a whole.

Where were you on June 19th last year, compared to June 19th of this year?

After President Obama was elected, Black people as a whole felt some kind of way about ourselves. It felt good, it felt like progress, like we were finally going some where. While we all acknowledged that racism was still very very real, and things aren’t magically better; it still felt good to be Black.. TWICE! Election and re-election. It was good for the morale of Black people as a whole. Black people across the country shed tears because we all know what we have been through, individually and as a whole. We feel good when we see the Obamas because of what we have been through and what they represent to us and for us (which is almost as important). The represent our collective progress; us “Doing Better”.

We need to keep the same brand of morale that we feel when we see the Obamas representing us in a positive light and apply it to ALL of us; individually and as a whole. We can do that by recognizing our accomplishments and progress annually; individually and as a whole.
The way we got to where we are right now, began with us educating ourselves. May through June, millions of Black kids move up a grade/year/level/etc in school or graduate from school or college or receive some kind of additional degree in higher education. Junetheeth is a perfect opportunity to celebrate our babies accomplishments but to also reinforce that education is a good thing. It should be celebrated. Its something to feel good about.

Juneteeth can be a shining example to Black kids of what being uneducated can do to you. Somebody is going to get a lot of free labor out of you (some place like jail. or even worse, being under paid).
Juneteeth can be a shining example to Black kids of what educating yourself can do for you. You, a Black person, could become the President of the United States of America. Barack Obama couldnt have got the same grades George  Bush got in college and became President. We all know that to be true. So let Juneteeth be a shining example of what we as Black people can become, but what it takes to get there.

Progress for Black people has always come with a lot of hard work. All this hard work needs to be celebrated and or recognized at some point. Its important for our collective morale as a people. Juneteeth is the perfect opportunity for Black people to take time out to do that. I see Black people all the time saying things are so awful; so and so is setting us back; disowning other groups of Black people and so on and so forth.
I believe that if Black people wouldnt always feel this way if we had a day where we all recognize and celebrate our accomplishments; individually and as a whole. Recognizing/Celebrating your personal accomplishments/progress and the people around you that look like you. A good reason to feel good about you and your people.

Thats one thing Black people in this country dont have. Is a day to feel good about being Black, for sure, every year, with out question. Black people do have Black history month, however, Black history month dont really symbolize as much as Juneteeth does for us. Black history month was chosen for us. On June 19th, we started doing for ourselves. That is something to feel good about.

Juneteeth can and does mean so many things to Black people. It represents our independence from our former oppressors. This country celebrates July 4th, 1776 as the day they broke away from the British. June 19th, 1865 is when we broke free from them. Lets celebrate! Lets celebrate in the name of all those Black people who took those first steps into freedom and could not celebrate like they wanted to. Yes, we should not have EVER been enslaved in the first place. But think about those people who were enslaved; born into slavery… and then for the first time in their life, they saw something every Black person they’ve ever met, never had. Freedom. When they were free’d, they weren’t mad that they were slaves in the first place. They were happy to be free!
I’ll bet any amount of money that those people don’t want to see you mad about them being slaves. They would rather focus on ALL the opportunities they now had in front of them that they only dreamed about.
Because remember, slaves didn’t fight for their freedom. It kind of just happen one day. The Black people that fought in the Civil War, weren’t slaves fighting their oppressors for their freedom (a few, yes. But not a whole bunch). There was no revolt or mass uprising sparked by Black people. Half of the country basically decided to be something like fair one day.

I don’t think we should ever celebrate in the name of “being free”. Black people should  celebrate what we have done with the time from then to now. Since June 19th, 1865, we haven’t asked anybody for anything but a chance to prove ourselves. We should celebrate in the name of ALL those Black Men and Women that suffered all those unimaginable hell’s we read about, who never got a chance to celebrate themselves. Any Black person that has broken a glass ceiling, didn’t get to turn around and celebrate it. The only time I can think of a celebration following the proverbial glass ceiling breaking is when Barack Obama became president. He celebrated and we celebrated for more than just because the guy we voted for won. That was probably the only time ever. And it felt good! We need to keep that going.

But instead of celebrating for one person breaking a glass ceiling some where. Lets celebrate what we did with the opportunities that one person who broke the glass ceiling got for us. Lets also celebrate in the name of the person that broke the glass ceiling, because they couldn’t celebrate it. They sacrificed themselves for the rest of us. The first Black person to do anything note worthy in this country sacrificed a lot of themselves. Let this day, let them know for sure that we recognize and appreciate them for what they’ve done for us, in the name of Doing Better; for us as individuals and us as a whole.  We are celebrating in their name in their honor.

If, as a Black person, you don’t believe that there is any reason to celebrate Juneteeth, that’s fine. I used to feel the same way. However, I do still believe that the progress we have made thus far needs to be acknowledged. Take that day to recognize it.

If you’re a Black person that doesn’t want to see the slavery issue die in this country, us coming together for Juneteeth is a reminder of that no matter if there’s a celebration or you’re mad that slavery existed in the first place. In addition to acknowledging and recognizing Jueeteeth, celebrating Juneteeth yearly will bring more attention to what has happen and the progress we have made since then.  No matter if its spoken on or not, Juneteeth will always represent the special relationship that Black people and White people have in America.

Juneteeth  is our birth as a people. This is when we started to become us. This is when we started to carve our own way. This is when we started all the way over from nothing; from ZERO. On June 19th 1865, we weren’t Africans anymore. We were decedents of Africans. We had been here for a few hundred years by then. We were us, who were here. We weren’t even accepted yet. We had to make that happen for us and its made us who we are today, now 148 years later. We became our own group of people. We aren’t like any other Black people (decedents of Africa) on the whole planet. We should embrace that and be proud of being US. We should be proud that all we have ever done is “Do Better”, no matter what the situation is. We have shown ourselves and the rest of the world what we are capable of. Our 148 year body of work is pretty impressive if you ask me. I could go on all day about it.

I believe that Juneteeth can be the next step in our progress as a people. What we want to do for/on/with Juneteeth is up to us as a whole. I feel like Black people in America, coming together and deciding what Juneteeth will represent for us as a whole would be very similar to us all fighting for our freedom and having a post slavery plan when we got our freedom. At this point in history, we as Black people have an opportunity to dictate our future like never before.

We have a Black President who is the best possible role model for Black people young and old. Many Black people perceive this as we can officially achieve anything, no matter what the playing field looks like, no matter what barriers need to be broken. Racism or not, I can make it. Especially young Black people, most importantly.  Also, social media has made the world smaller and connected a healthy percentage of Black people in America; old and young. There is 6 degree’s between so and so and Kevin Bacon. With social media, Black people in America are only about 2 to 3 degrees from each other, famous or not.  That means a lot of things. We can communicate instantly across the country. We now all have a more shared experience as a people across the country, not just in pockets of the country. For example, Treyvon Martin case in Florida got national attention with in 3 days of it getting the attention of the Black people on twitter. All it took was Black people in Florida to cry out to the rest of the Black people on social media networks for help bringing attention to this case and seeing that justice is served. It took 3 days for it to make national news. With in 2 weeks it was mentioned on every possible outlet it could be.

All this is important because our numbers are small. We are only 13% of the population. With us all being so connected now, that means ideas and conversations happen with a larger number of people at a time. So the fruit from those ideas and conversations grow a lot quicker and starts to look(sound) a lot alike. A lot of Black peoples beliefs differ from region to region. With social media, those beliefs can and will start to become the same across most Black people no matter where they are. Information for us to help each other gets from person to person faster.

This is our opportunity to figure us, as a people out. Who we are, what we are about. What do we want for us and for our future. What we want to do with days like Juneteeth. We can all decide what messages we will tell our kids together as a people because were all connected. So when they grow up they will Do Better than we are. Like we are doing better than our previous generations. But they will do better in a more unified manner. Because the Black kid in Ohio will have similar values to the Black kid in Arizona. We will all be getting the same message as to who we are as a people, thats very important. Social media has made us a big-small community. Its like were all in the same town now, and we can decide what the town name is going to be; the street names; the holidays in the town; how life is going to be in the town; the town values; all that.

I think this is the point in history where Black people can really be serious about “Doing Better” as a whole. At this point in history, we can really plant the seeds to make that happen. I believe it starts with what Juneteeth represents for Black people currently in America. I believe that’s why Juneteeth is important to Black people in America and we should do something about it.

 

 

Thank you for reading.