Juneteenth is not a “Black Holiday.” It’s a national holiday that recognizes the history of this nation and its struggle to recognize the humanity of Black people.
As our nation recognizes and acknowledges the struggles and contribution of Black people, every marginalized race, religion, gender, and other identity group in our nations has renewed hope that inclusion is becoming a reality.
In my grandmother’s living room, behind a plastic covered armed chair, there were framed pictures of JFK, MLK, and Jesus. It was an interesting juxtaposition but as a child I got it: They were diverse representations of compassion, and love, and hope. The Jew, the Catholic, the Baptist, the Black, the White, and the Nazarene, all belonged right there on the wall next to each other to be respected and revered in her home and in our family.
Juneteenth now sits juxtaposed to Independence Day and many wonder “Why?”
The Union troops generally had to force Confederate states to comply with the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas had a low presence of Union troops and their compliance had been slow and inconsistent. Juneteenth is the observation and celebration of the June 19, 1965 arrival of Union General Granger in Galveston that ensures Texas’ compliance. Juneteenth is now on a national federal holiday calendar juxtaposed to Independence Day.
Freedom is our national identity. Juneteenth and Independence Day acknowledge people’s humanity and dignity their right to freedom. Both freedoms were gained only after years of strife and blood shed. These freedom fights greatly impacted and continue to shape the future of our nation.
Hopefully, as we heal from slavery and the Civil War, we are beginning to get it and understand: Every person’s independence and freedom matters. Every individual regardless of social identity was born with an unalienable right to be free. Freedom is at the foundation of inclusion. And, when a social group achieves its own freedom and respects and advances the freedom for other groups for the good and common purposes of all, there is reason for celebration by all.
May we all as a nation continue to recognize the self-evident truth of freedom. May we fight for it for all, observe it for all, and celebrate it for all. Let our rejoicing rise. Let freedom ring.