Something pretty incredible happened this week. On June 17th, President Biden signed a bill that officially commemorates Juneteenth as the 11th annual federal holiday in the United States.
Slavery is perhaps our country’s most appalling and shameful legacy. Even after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declaring the end to slavery in the United States, this was not enforced in every part of the country. In fact, it was not until more than two years later, on June 19th, 1865, that Union officers brought the news of freedom to enslaved African American people in the state of Texas, the last group to learn that the war had ended, the Union had won, and the brutal institution of slavery was finally over.
Starting tomorrow, this historic date will finally be celebrated as an official national holiday.
I was elated about what this meant for me as a Black, queer woman, but even more so about what this represents about our progress in our fight for social justice of everyone.
We rely on our celebrations not only to remind us of how far we come, but also inspire us to continue the fight. Even though the arc bends toward justice, it doesn’t bend on its own. We owe it to ourselves to celebrate the steps that we have taken to get there.
Some of us have celebrated this day for years, while some are new to the celebration. If you’ve never celebrated it before, here are some ideas about how we can treat this holiday with the respect it deserves and ensure that we don’t allow this day to become a performative show of solidarity:
- Make a commitment to study Critical Race Theory! Much of the education that many of us receive ignores the incredible contributions of Black people.
- Shop at Black-owned businesses or donate/volunteer to Black-led organizations, and organizations with an expressed mission of serving Black people.
- Take today to learn about Juneteenth! It’s an important part of our history!
This is a day worthy celebration for everyone. And I’m excited for our children to grow up in a world that does a better job of taking responsibility for our failures and making today better than yesterday, with a commitment of making tomorrow even better.
Happy Juneteenth, to everyone!