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by Wayne Campbell
“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress.
It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible and there is still so much work to do.” – Barack Obama.
We have all seen the upsurge in racial confrontations in the United States of America. Unfortunately, some of us have been victims of this increased racial tension among whites who believe they have an entitlement to all things and minority groups who have been engaged in a struggle for justice and equality.
Minority groups led primarily by African Americans have formed themselves in various movements in this ongoing fight for equal rights and justice all across the United States of America.
The call for racial justice has become louder in recent times as advocacy groups have marched for justice on behalf of those black men and women who have been shot and killed by white law enforcement officers.
Professor Vincent Brown; Professor of American History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University stated that African warfare was reconstituted as an outgrowth of emigrant experiences. He identified this as collective violence which equates to black lives being devalued.
Professor Brown posits that the United States of America as an example where black lives are devalued. The professor added that the police are disproportionately violent against black and brown people in these societies. The emergence of social media has allowed us to witness in real time the abuses many people of colour face daily from those who hide under the banner of white privilege and masculinity.
The Black Lives Movement
According to the website of the Black Lives Matter (BLM), the BLM movement was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer.
The BLM is a global organisation in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives. This Black Lives Matter movement has taken on an international flair as thousands of people in almost every country have taken to the streets with banners such as I Can’t Breathe to highlight the injustices being meted out to blacks.
The demonstrations have become a nightly activity as organizers are adamant that changes must be had to dismantle the systemic and entrenched layers of racism which are seen in law enforcement, public housing, education among other services provided by the State. Demonstrations have also been held in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Jamaica and Germany to name a few countries.
The movement gained traction after the murder of 46-year-old African American George Floyd in May of 2020 who was held in a chokehold by white police officers in Minneapolis for almost 9 minutes until he uttered his final words, “I Can’t Breathe.”
Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd in April of 2021.
Subsequently, there has been a global attack on statues which are rooted in slavery and racism; many of these statues including those of King Leopold 2 of Belgium and Christopher Columbus have been removed from public spaces.
These statues serve as a painful reminder to the cruel treatment of a once enslaved people. The removal is cathartic for many in the Black community. Additionally, the Confederate flag will no longer be allowed at NASCAR meets.
In a release NASCAR said they will ban Confederate flags from all events and properties in a substantial move for a sport steeped in Southern history and at times plagued by racism.
It appears that a collective consciousness has taken root in a significant number of people.
Disturbingly, there is also a counter revolution as white supremacist groups have been on the increase and are not afraid to display themselves publicly. The attack on the capital of the United States on January 6, 2021 was a barefaced attack on democracy. It is against this background that this year’s Juneteenth celebrations will be more meaningful to the African American community and to those who support inclusiveness and racial equality.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, a blend of the words June and nineteenth, honours the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth celebrations have taken on a special significance. Juneteenth takes place on June 19th every year and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
Specifically, it commemorates the day (June 19th, 1865) that Union soldiers finally made it to Galveston, Texas, to tell enslaved people that the war was over and they were now free. It does not commemorate Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official U.S. law on January 1st, 1863, but was not fully implemented to all until the order was read to enslaved people all the way in Texas two and a half years later.
Many plantation owners held enslaved people captive long after the proclamation, or intentionally fled westward to avoid approaching Union forces who would inform them of their free status. Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1866, with Texans memorializing the momentous occasion as a day of celebration and community. Since then, it’s come to be recognized as a holiday or official observance in 46 states and Washington, D.C., Forbes reported.
A number of big-name companies including Nike, Ford Motor, General Motors, Best Buy, JP Morgan, JC Penny, Google, MasterCard, Twitter, Uber took the lead in giving their employees this paid holiday.
Juneteenth has long been commemorated in the Black community for many years, however, Juneteenth has gained higher prominence in recent years after racial justice movements increased interest in the holiday and more states and cities have passed legislation commemorating emancipation.
Juneteenth is scheduled to become a federal holiday.
President Joe Biden signed the legislation on June 17th, 2021making Juneteenth, a federal holiday. In the words of Dr.b Martin Luther King Jr., if the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. [email protected]