Juneteenth: Celebrating 155 years of freedom and struggle

By Layal Srour
June 27, 2020

The Juneteenth flag, where the small star symbolizes the freedom in all 50 states, the bursting outline symbolizes a new beginning, the arc means a new horizon, and the colors represent the American flag to show that slaves were and are Americans. Photo by Wikicommons.

On June 19, 1865, those who were enslaved in the state of Texas received the news that they were finally free. Unfortunately, this news was long overdue as it was received two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took place. This means that citizens who were being enslaved, continued to be, even after they were given their freedom. 

Today, Juneteenth is the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States, according to Pbs.Org. One of the reasons for is that for Black people in America, Juneteenth has become so much more than a celebration of emancipation. Juneteenth is now a day to not only celebrate freedom, but to celebrate African American culture. It is a day to join together and celebrate one another. 

Juneteenth celebrations and events can be found all across the United States. Friends and families gather for picnics, dancing, guest speakers and so much more. But despite its popularity and significance, many have never even heard of Juneteenth and in some states, it isn’t even an official holiday. This is largely due to the way that the education system in the United States covers Black history.

A two-month-long investigation of social studies standards in all 50 states found that seven states do not directly mention slavery in their state standards, eight states do not mention the civil rights movement, only two specifically mention white supremacy and 16 states list “states rights” as the the cause of the Civil War, according to CBS News. Now, more than ever, people are hearing about Juneteenth, which has led to some positive changes. 

The conversation about how the education system fails Americans, especially Black Americans, by not adequately sharing Black history with them has been especially highlighted, this Juneteenth. Also during this Juneteenth, many companies and schools have celebrated and in some states Juneteenth was finally declared an official holiday. 

Despite President Trump’s claims that he made Juneteenth famous, it was the Black community who made these positive changes happen this year. The Black community is now advocating for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday, which is important for everyone. 

The need for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday became more prominent for African Americans following the number of deaths in the Black community from racism and police brutality that led to a nation-wide protest for justice for those who were wrongfully killed. 

On Friday, June 19, 2020, also known as Juneteenth, many people across different states celebrated the holiday with various protests and marches. 

As mentioned in an article by The New York Times, “the Juneteenth flag rose with the morning light in Wisconsin Capitol for the first time.” Thousands of people gathered in a “21-acre park in Atlanta, arms raised to the sky before their march.” In Minneapolis, a celebration took place just “one block from the George Floyd Memorial.” In New York, people marched down the streets with others cheering them on from their balconies. There was also a “drum-line performance for Nonviolence and Social change in Atlanta.” In Harlem, “The Africa Center unveiled a 48-foot-tall Black Lives Matter mural on the museum’s facade to celebrate Juneteenth.” 

Many more forms of protests, marches and celebrations took place around the country in light of Juneteenth, racism and systemic oppression.

Cabrini University alum, Renin Broadnax, celebrated Juneteenth with a family get together by combining “African and Caribbean traditions that include wearing clothes to represent their culture, have a mini caribbean carnival complete with traditional dances and ending the night with lit candles, a prayer and listening to stories about their ancestors, as well as thanking their ancestors for watching over them.”

A sophomore psychology student at Cabrini celebrated this holiday with “a barbecue with family and friends, then went to the beach to light fireworks.”

Voshon Mack, junior business management major, did not do a major celebration, but rather talked among his family about “lots of history and events that are currently happening worldwide.”

Miah Allen, junior social media and digital communication major, said that “due to COVID-19, her and her family went to lunch as their form of celebration since they couldn’t do anything to big.”

A few celebrities have also spoken out about Juneteenth and their celebration for the holiday. In an article by Insider, “Beyonce released a new song called Black Parade and created a website of the same name to highlight black-owned businesses.” Singer Lizzo also participated by holding a “silent auction to give to black organizations in Minneapolis.” On Instagram, Shawn Mendes and Selena Gomez hosted Black Leaders on their accounts for their supporters to engage and learn more. “George Clooney donated $500,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative.” Many other celebrities participated in their own ways during the holiday weekend.

Overall, this celebration of this holiday does not just end here. Instead, it will continue to grow and make a huge impact on the black community and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Layal Srour

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