Juneteenth: Why More Than Ever It Is Important to Commemorate the Ending of Slavery in the United States

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“If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army issued General Order No. 3 informing the people of Galveston, Texas “that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This year marks the 155th annual celebration of Juneteenth and there’s no doubt this time will be honored differently.

Known as Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, or Juneteenth National Freedom Day, as well as one of the oldest commemorated holidays in the United States, Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, can be celebrated in many ways. Traditionally, cookouts, festivals, parades, picnics, marches, and vigils, are part of the events that pay homage to the history ofBlack culture, and its contributions to American history; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many virtual activities will also take place. Whether you decide to celebrate it in-person or online, this year, more than ever, it is important we join the festivities and keep helping every Black American to demand justice, equality, and most importantly make the government recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday or observance. 

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uneteenth is the oldest nationally-recognized commemoration of the official end of slavery in the United States. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons)

Yes, Juneteenth is both a celebration and a continuous fight. Today, whites and non-Black people of color embrace the movement as allies to pay our respects and remind everybody that we all are humans, and we all have the same rights. Like singer Pharrell Williams said during a press conference in his native Virginia: “Black lives matter in the eyes of the commonwealth. I can’t say that always has, but finally, we realize that. Black lives absolutely matter. That is not political, they are lives. They are human beings.” 

Although slavery ended many years ago, unfortunately, we are still dealing with racism — an absurd and divisive way of thinking that your skin color dictates your inferiority. Today, it is not enough to describe ourselves as non-racist but to be anti-racist. This is the step that will take us from words to actions. 

We cannot celebrate the Independence of the United States on July 4th if Black people, if any people of color, are still oppressed and targeted. On Juneteenth, our duty is to remember all the Black lives lost before the national emancipation, as well as all the Black lives we’ve lost in this era due to police brutality and hate. As Hispanics and Latinx, we also need to use this time to reflect and make peace with our past. We need to acknowledge our African heritage and protect our indigenous people. Today, we also need to emancipate from those different beliefs we adopted radically throughout generations. Today we block every systematic and forcible pressure to fit in a mold that wasn’t built for us. Today we break the chains and stop contributing to the erasure of our collective culture. Today, “United we stand, divided we fall.”