For most Americans, the Fourth of July is celebrated as the birth of our nation and the day of its official independence from Great Britain. However, according to the Constitution, freedom did not apply to all. The property of African slaves was widely accepted by those in power, fueling our country’s long history of racism.
Because of this reality, a lot of African Americans celebrate Juneteenth as their true day of freedom and emancipation. On June 19, 1865, union army general Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to declare that Texas slaves were now free. This freedom was actually granted to them three years prior, when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Now in 2020, Juneteenth has garnered nationwide attention like never before. Following the unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, amongst hundreds of other unarmed black victims, the U.S. has witnessed a revolution against racial injustice. On American and international soil, widespread protests have ignited a desire in many to better understand the #BlackLivesMatter agenda, particularly within the non-black population.
Change is being seen throughout, with new police force regulations and legislation, large corporations denouncing racist activity and widespread discussion within the public and private sectors concerning racial injustice and possible solutions, just to name a few advances. Many sense a renaissance brewing within this country, with the expectation that there will be a more sustained positive outcome than that of the Civil Rights Movement.
Though Juneteenth is not officially a national holiday, there has been a grand push from protestors and demonstrators to establish it as one. Businesses such as Nike, Target and Twitter have all announced Juneteenth as a paid day off, and Mastercard and Google have declared it a day of reflection for its employees. With such support from the masses, Juneteenth may see itself as a federal holiday in the future.
On Juneteenth, African American communities gather in celebration, having cookouts and parades and singing the black national anthem (Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing) in harmony. On this 155th anniversary, the celebration must continue, but so must the fight. Protests still need to take place, petitions still need to be signed and laws still must be passed. Through the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, African Americans are one step closer to being treated equally and gaining the true freedom that should have been granted to them centuries ago. #BlackLivesMatter must not be a moment, but a movement.
words_leslie dominique design_olivia ginsberg