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  • Writer's pictureAlicia

Juneteenth 2020

June 19th, 2020. It is Juneteenth in the good ol' USA, and people are celebrating this holiday like it is something new... (and it isn't).

Just a few short days before the holiday, President Trump tweeted that he, yes he, made Juneteenth famous, although it has been celebrated by African-Americans (and anti-slavery allies) in this nation since 1867.

For those of you who have had their heads in the sand for the past few days (all love, no shade), Juneteenth is the celebration of the day when all slaves were truly free in the United States of America. On January 1st, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, which, by law, freed slaves in America, however, it took just over 2.5 years for slaves throughout the states to actually hear this news and be officially freed, which culminated in Texas on June 19th, 1865.

Side Note: Please note that this is an African-American holiday, not an all-encompassing Black holiday. Remember, African-Americans are Black, but not all Black people are African-American; the slave trade hit us all differently.

Side to the Side Note: Everyone can and should partake in the celebration, but please don't disrespect by forgetting who owns this history and whose ancestors risked their lives and died for you to have a cookout (don't say/do picnics, it speaks to hanging black people)

As frustrating as it was to see puzzled faces when Juneteenth's arrival was mentioned on social media and the news, admittedly, my family had never celebrated Juneteenth prior to this year.

GASP! (Yeah, I know)

Moreover, I honestly can't name more than two Black family members or friends who have.

Now, our 'non-celebration'; was not based on some type of sad self-hate, but rather, a lack of knowledge.

I think it all comes down to education:

  • Eurocentric curriculum, even to this day, even in the hood

  • Black parents don't celebrate at home or teach their children (they can't teach what they never learned)

  • Juneteenth gets no media coverage (until now, in the heat of the BLM movement, of course)

I can't tell you much about Black inventors, Black Wall Street, or Black communities during reconstruction, but I do know about Christopher Columbus in 1492, President George Washington, (White) women's suffrage... you get the picture. Schools don't teach Black children Black history...hard stop.

Think about it, Black history is barely included in the US history classroom; in most colleges, if you want to learn about Black history, you have to take a separate course, with a separate curriculum (frequently called African American Studies). For small school children, African-American history is usually a separate "unit" in the year-long curriculum; covered for a couple of weeks, then tucked away quietly so that White US history lessons can resume. Quite honestly, Black history may never be included in mainstream US history, unless more people acknowledge the holes in the current narrative and lobby for change.

Thankfully, Black Hollywood picked up the slack and released television episodes and series that told the story of Juneteenth, and how we can honor it today, FUBU style (for us, by us) (see, Atlanta Juneteenth season 1, ep. 9, 2016 and Black-ish Juneteenth season 4 ep. 1, 2017).

It makes sense that a system based on the hierarchy of humans would never allow those at the bottom to know their history. Why would oppressors want to admit their wrong year after year and be reminded of their sins? Why would they want their future free prison labor to know that they have the ability to be creators, authors, engineers, business owners, and live independently from the system that would collapse without them? (Think Seneca Village). It makes sense that the majority of Black history that is expanded on in schools, (you know, when the test had more than one multiple choice question on it, it was relatively important) is the history that glorifies White people for doing "good" things for Black people, for example, The Emancipation Proclamation.

"Why", you might ask, "don't African-Americans teach these important holidays and moments in Black history to their children, since they can't depend on the school system?" I'll give you my take; African-Americans in the USA are so busy trying not to die, trying to get housing, trying to put food on the table, trying to make it in the White-dominated workforce, trying to do better than the generations before them, that there has simply been little time to take the step back and rediscover who they really are; maybe...just maybe.

Now, for my family personally, it's not that we haven't heard of Juneteenth before, or that we are so preoccupied with "making" it that we could never celebrate (God has blessed us). For us, I think it might be an issue of passive assimilation. We have been programmed to celebrate the default holidays that represent White America, and we continue to do so, sleepily, without much thought. Regardless of the reasons why my family and I have never truly celebrated Juneteenth before this year, we are reclaiming our history and will continue to learn, grow, and celebrate all things Black, and specifically African-American.

Don't get me wrong, July 4th is still an important holiday in this nation, however, Juneteenth should be marked as so much greater. This is the day when approximately 4 million people, 4 million souls, 4 million humans were freed from slavery. None of us were free until all of us were free.

We all have homework to do. African-American history is US history; learn it.



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