Juneteenth 2020: Why It Matters

Juneteenth should be celebrated every year, but this year EVERYONE should be celebrating the holiday.

The holiday, named for and celebrated on June 19 — honors the true termination of slavery in the United States. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into result Jan. 1, 1863, declaring “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State… shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” It wouldn’t be until two and a half years following, on June 19, 1865, that General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers entered in Galveston, Texas, with an announcement that the Civil War had ended and any enslaved people were freed by executive order.

From its celebratory origins in church gatherings crosswise Texas, Juneteenth remains short of a national holiday — for now. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday after state Rep. Al Edwards put forth legislation. Following that move, 45 states plus Washington, DC, now commemorate the day as a holiday or observance. Cities have also taken steps to specifically recognize Juneteenth at the municipal level. Philadelphia, the place of one of the country’s most big-hearted Juneteenth parades, recently passed an executive order. Which appoints Juneteenth an authentic official city holiday for 2020. “This designation of Juneteenth represents my administration’s commitment to reckon with our own role in maintaining racial inequities and our understanding of the magnitude of work that lies ahead,” said their Mayor Jim Kenney.

The holiday has added significance this year with the media and public eye viewing global protests against systemic racism and police brutality over these past few weeks. Following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — as well as the deaths of many others. And also increased matters of individuals of none color to better educate themselves.

In “Teaching the Significance of Juneteenth,” Shennette Garrett-Scott and others wrote, “It is sometimes hard to teach small but pivotal moments in American history. Survey classes mostly allow for covering the biggest events and the most well-known people.” But to help students understand major moments like the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is important to teach the smaller historical milestones. Another stipulation that remains for Juneteenth is the pervasive conception that it’s a “black thing,” much like Kwanzaa. “It is seen as a holiday that is just observed by African Americans and is poorly understood outside of the African American community. It is perceived as being part of black culture and not ‘American culture,’ so to speak,” Hill said. Karlos Hill, an author and University of Oklahoma professor of African and African American.

Just this month of June, a number of corporations and institutions like Nike and the NFL have started plans to acknowledge Juneteenth as a company holiday. Entertainment idols such as Alicia Keys and John Legend will be on their “battle of the pianos” on Instagram Live and the “Black History Month Spectacular” on AMC’s Sherman’s Showcase will air. Other showcases include:

  • Juneteenth Black Family Reunion-REVOLT and the NAACP team up for a virtual special hosted by ET’s Nischelle Turner, with guest speakers (including NAACP Leon W. Russell and Derrick Johnson, and Bishop T.D. Jakes) and performers. Tune on Friday at 4:00 p.m. ET on REVOLT.
  • Juneteenth Freedom Day Marathon- BET kicks off their Juneteenth schedule with social justice-themed episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin. Followed by programing that “celebrates the resilience of the African American spirit” and interspersed with messages from the likes of Senators Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, Reverend Al Sharpton, Chloe x Halle and more. Tune in starting Friday at 7:00 a.m. ET.

 

Want to honor and participate here is a list of things to take part in on Juneteenth in your city and locally here in Washington state. 

 

  1. Donate to your favorite causes and organizations. Show a little extra support today to some of your favorite causes and organizations fighting for change, like Color of ChangeNAACP Legal Defense Fund, or the LGBTQ Freedom Fund.
  2. Support Black-owned food businesses.
  3. Juneteenth blackout at the “CHOP,” Capitol Hill, Seattle. 8 a.m.-8 p.m. The Capitol Hill Organized Protest plans a series of events focused on Black healing and community.
  4. Support Black-owned bookstores and Black authors. Looking for some new authors to try out? Check out this list of books written by Black authors that are certainly fundamental to read.
  5. Juneteenth Next Steps Rally, Judkins Park, Seattle. 1 p.m. The rally hopes to educate people about change amid the Black Lives Matter movement. Speakers will include local, state, and faith leaders. Along with nonprofit advocates for communities of color and families impacted by police use of deadly force.

 

 

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