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Juneteenth Celebration

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed an Emancipation Proclamation officially declaring that all enslaved people were to be freed. This proclamation initially only benefited people who were enslaved in states under confederate control. Texas on the other hand remained under union control meaning that slaves were not yet freed. Although legally they were free, mentally they still remained enslaved. Enslavers kept this information of the proclamation a secret from the enslaved in hopes that Texas would remain a slave state.

It wasn't until June 19, 1865, two years after the signing of the proclamation, that federal troops marched into Galveston Texas to read the proclamation and declared Texas a slave-free state. Although they faced backlash from the enslavers for their newfound freedom the enslaved began to celebrate their victory and this was the birth of the newfound federal holiday "Juneteenth".

Now before I get into why Juneteenth is so amazing; I want to first start by saying that it's okay to not have known of Juneteenth before today or even before a year ago. Just as they kept the emancipation proclamation a secret from the enslaved, they weren't really rejoicing this holiday either. I say this to say whether it's your first time learning about it, or you've been knowing about it, Juneteenth is such a powerful day that should be celebrated loudly with no shame!

For years we have idealized July 4, 1776, as the day America was emancipated when in reality not everyone was free in the eyes of the law. Juneteenth is a day when Black people come together to honor the day, we were considered free, or free-ish if you want to get technical. This day is honored with festive cookouts, family reunions, music, etc. as we all come together and celebrate the reason we are here today.

As I've said before, many people have little if any knowledge of Juneteenth and how it came into effect. I recently became aware of Juneteenth two years prior to today and I'm actually surprised we didn't start the celebrating sooner! This year I had the honor of participating in several Juneteenth activities and overall, I would say it was one of the best experiences I've had in my life.

First, I want to start by saying, I live in Des Moines Iowa, a state known for having a predominantly white population. For the most part, most of the people are friendly but every so often you run into that one person who seems to "forget" we have the right to be here just as much as they do. I grew up in the Virgin Islands where everywhere you go, everyone knew their culture and celebrated it loud and proud. So, as you can imagine moving to Iowa was a bit of a culture shock.

With that being said I wrote this article not to bash any other race nor point out the injustices Black people faced in the past, but to bring awareness to Juneteenth and the effects it has on the Black community today. Being able to attend these events this Juneteenth weekend was a very eye-opening and thrilling experience. It was eye-opening in the sense that Black people are beginning to step into their power and realize the strength we possess when we decide to come together as one. It was liberating to see the Black community celebrating loudly and displaying our culture to the world with no shyness or remorse, and I can honestly say I love that for the community as a whole. What was thrilling about it was the fierceness we held in our stance on being free; it sent a statement to the world that we are free and gone are the those where we let anyone try to take this from us.

Participating in these activities gave me a sense of comfort and a feeling as though I was at home amongst people of my kind. While we have a long way to go when it comes to equality in the eyes of the law, we are on the right track to getting there. The passing of the bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday is the first step to acknowledging the past and giving Black people hope, to believe that we can soon see a day where equality looks and feel the same on both sides of the fence.

With that being said to all my readers who are not a part of the Black community make sure you acknowledge Juneteenth in the presence of Black people as you would any other holiday. And to my readers who are a part of the Black community make sure you rejoice not only for yourself but for your community as well. Get with the people you love on this day and celebrate our accomplishments and the fact that despite everything we've been through we continue to stand tall in the face of adversity and we can only go up from here!

Head-Up, stand tall, raise your fist up high, and yell it to the sky...


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