What is Juneteenth?

I didn’t know what Juneteenth was until I moved into my neighborhood.  I didn’t have any idea that the holiday existed for the first 25 years of my life.  We moved into our home on 8th Street in May and I clearly remember that Juneteenth back in 2006.  There was parade that surrounded our neighborhood and a huge block party that shut down MLK Street a mile long.  When I learned what Juneteenth was, I remember thinking how I didn’t know about this holiday?

Over the last decade, when I would tell white people about Juneteenth many would have no idea either about the holiday.  I think we didn’t know about Juneteenth because slavery didn’t affected us negatively.  Slavery only benefited white Americans which is why it isn’t easy to bring up.  Slavery gave white people a leg up for over 200 years.  The more I learn about our county, the more I realize how it was built on the backs of Black people working hard and white people benefiting.  I think this is a hard thing to understand until you really see it played out in poor areas of the city.  When I see a single mom of 3 making $12/hr, that is how slavery is still affecting Black communities.  When you learn that the graduation rate for high schools in the inner city are around 50%, that is how slavery is still affecting America.  When you see so many neglected houses in one area of the city, that is how slavery is still affecting America.

“Enslavement never ended. It just evolved”
Rachel Ricketts

A lot of times I want to diminish things that make me feel uncomfortable.  Like slavery.  I feel uncomfortable thinking that I am entangled with a system that has made my ancestors lives easier which therefore has made my life easier.  But I need to own that greedy white southerners hid the fact that slavery was abolished for over two years and that is my history.  This is a day to reflect on these systems that we didn’t put into place, but that have made white American’s lives easier.  This is a day we should be seeking ways to end systems that make only white individual lives easier.  This is a day to have empathy on those around us and do more.

Juneteenth represents the day that Black people were finally told that they were to have absolute equality of rights.  Do you see injustices where Black individuals still don’t have that equality of rights?  Now is the time to do something about that.  I think Juneteenth is a great opportunity for all of us to search our lives for injustices and think about how we can make them right.