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Not, Just Another Day in June
Last night we were invited to dinner at our daughter Sarah and son-in-law’ Greg’s home. Grandson Tommy was home from NC for the weekend. Kathryn, Abby, Rachael and pets Cooper & Riley were in attendance. Jeff was on his way to Michigan and Antwaine was working. Low humidity, and a gorgeous sky with no wind made the evening delightful.
Our concentrated discussion centered on Juneteenth. Not one of us prior to the recent events beginning in Minnesota we are all so aware of, had ever heard of Juneteenth.
Oh, the menu you ask. Skirt Steak, fresh caught Tuna and Scallops, Corn on the Cob, (Best ultra sweet, tooth sucking corn I’ve ever tasted,) Asparagus, fresh salad, and it all ended with home made Peach Cobbler by Grannie. Sorry we couldn’t have had you all there. Thanks Sarah and Greg!
Usher Raymond IV is a musician, actor and entrepreneur. He recently submitted this essay to the Washington Post.
At the 2015 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, I wore a T-shirt that caught a lot of people’s attention. The design was simple. The words “July Fourth” were crossed out and under them, one word was written: “Juneteenth.” I wore the shirt because, for many years, I celebrated the Fourth of July without a true understanding that the date of independence for our people, black people, is actually June 19, 1865: the day that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached some of the last people in America still held in bondage.
I have no issue with celebrating America’s independence on July 4. For me, wearing the shirt was an opportunity to inform others who may not necessarily know the history of black people in America, and who are not aware that Juneteenth is our authentic day of self-determination. It is ours to honor the legacy of our ancestors, ours to celebrate and ours to remember where we once were as a people. And it should be a national holiday, observed by all Americans.AD
Growing up in Chattanooga, Tenn., I was taught in school one version of U.S. history that frequently excluded the history of my family and my community. The black history I learned came from the “Eyes On the Prize” documentary that aired during Black History Month. That was where I learned about Emmett Till, Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. When I moved to Atlanta at age 13, I went deeper and discovered more about the movement, the horrors of slavery and the resilience of our people. I came to understand Juneteenth’s history a decade ago during a period of reflection and in pursuit of any ancestral history that would tell me who I am.
The liberation Juneteenth commemorates is cause for celebration, but it also reminds us how equality can be delayed. On June 19, 1865, on the shores of Galveston, Tex., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived by boat to announce to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were now free. While President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued two and a half years prior, and the Civil War had ended in April of that year, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that almost all of our ancestors were free. We should honor their lives and celebrate that day of freedom forever.
I cherish the words of Nina Simone. I respect the legacy of Harry Belafonte and the unapologetic blackness of James Brown. I admire the entrepreneurship of Madam C.J. Walker. I have learned from my elders. Their wisdom has taught me to use my voice to support my people, so many of whom are hurting right now. Making sure that our history is told is critical to supporting and sustaining our growth as a people. The least we deserve is to have this essential moment included in the broader American story.
Checking the Calendars
So, today I looked at our active working calendar and there on the date block of June 19, 2020 was the word “JUNETEENTH.” I save calendars, along with my Journals, I can go back to the year 2014. No where on any of these previous years was 19 June designated “JUNETEENTH.”
So I wonder, what History I, we, us, were taught back in the 50 & 60’s?
To wrap up this Juneteenth discussion, have you ever learned about this day in history? What else were we never taught, or were those who came before us not willing to share with us?