Today we honor and celebrate Juneteenth, the day that commemorates when enslaved Texans found out they had been freed. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued two and half years earlier on January 1st 1863, it did not instantly free African-Americans. In fact, it only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding rebel areas or border states under Union control. The announcement did not reach the enslaved people of Texas until June 19,1865. Read by General Granger in Galveston, the order advised the freedmen and freedwomen to remain working for their former owners in return for wages. Before Granger could finish, the freed-people began leaving in what is known as “the scatter”, regardless of the urging message to remain working for pay. The 250,000 formerly enslaved people then began their journey to reunite with family members and seek new beginnings in northern regions.
As we observe this holiday by pausing all our operations, we plan to use this day to reflect on the messages of Juneteenth – freedom, justice and equality; as well as the strength and resiliency of the freed-people (and those that remained enslaved). Regardless of your racial background, take time to honor this holiday as it marks a momentous day in our nation’s history and should be revered much like Independence Day. The symbolism of this day to African-American freedom resonates strongly in our current climate. We are using our collective power to metaphorically break the chains that have bound our society through the eras of Jim Crow and Civil Rights. We are finally recognizing that as Americans we are not all truly “free” due to systemic racism which has normalized injustices and disparities.
It feels almost as if bringing light to these deep-rooted violations of human rights is our modern-day equivalent to the long-awaited announcement of freedom; however, as aforementioned, the message presented two options: to keep their familiar life being enslaved and receive compensation or move onward as a freed person with a level of uncertainty regarding their future. This parallels the crossroads many of us find ourselves posited- BIPOC or non-BIPOC, do we continue with our comfortable lives after we have shown outward solidarity for BIPOC with a donation to an organization, posting the Black square to our Instagram grid, making a purchase at a BIPOC establishment? Or the latter…stepping outside our comfort zone to make life changes that reflect the constant work needed to change our system; knowing relationships with family, friends and co-workers may be impacted as a result of our call to action to aid BIPOC communities. Wherever you are with these questions, remember that each of us has a contribution to our civilization and our history- as beautiful of a world we have created, it has often been at the expense of someone’s suffering. Together, we can change the narrative and create an environment that fosters unity, respect, acceptance and equality.
Here are some ideas to celebrate Juneteenth…not only is this a day to rejoice and reflect with others or individually, this can serve as a platform to educate, assess and plan for the improvement of our communities. Show your support locally and nationally to make Juneteenth a US federal holiday by observing this day and help educate others to recognize its significance.
Special Thanks and infinite gratitude to Infamous Jean Claude (@infamousjeanclaude) for creating this commissioned artwork for Juneteenth. Check out his web store to show love and get his work on prints + tees!