I don’t know about you, but Juneteenth was not a holiday I knew about until I was an adult. That reality is likely a truth that too many African American people share. What we didn’t learn in school or at home is a reason to shed a tear. It has been said that if we don’t know our history, we are bound to repeat it. In the case of Black people in the United States, the problem is not that we are bound to repeat it but that we are bound to have it repeated by others upon us! And even worse, to repeat the actions of others upon our own.
Recent events following the murder of George Floyd took me to a difficult and painful place. For me it was 1968, returning to Chicago for Spring break as the Westside was burning following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. For others it brought memories of the riots in L.A. following the beating of Rodney King. For most of us, George Floyd’s death was another nail in our souls. Another painful blow that was all too reminiscent of not only Breonna Taylor, Laquan McDonald, Travon Martin, and Emmit Till but of so many others whose senseless murders run together making an endless stream of pain – calling us to say their names amidst our countless tears.
But while so many are marching, praying, demonstrating and staying on the frontlines for us all, let’s declare Juneteenth a celebration of Black lives – past, present and future. Juneteenth was not just the date most slaves discovered that they were free from U. S. bondage. Juneteenth was the opportunity for connections. The longing for children, parents, family, who had been snatched and sold was always present, but with Juneteenth the search began in earnest and in print.
If we are to honor and celebrate Juneteenth, then let us do it in the spirit of those cries for connection. Make Juneteenth the celebration of your family’s personal history. Tell your children and grandchildren about those family members who have passed away. Have parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles tell their stories so that the next generations will remember. And recount the names of the Emmit Tills, James Chaneys, Andrew Goodmans, Michael Schwerners, James Merediths, Fred Hamptons, and Nat Turners along with countless others in your family and our collective history whose names must not be forgotten. Let June 19, 2020 be a declaration of victory for those in our history whose names we may not even know. Let Juneteenth be the way you connect your family to its ancestry, its legacy, and its hope so that this generation can rise above senseless deaths. Let Juneteenth be our rallying cry because Black Lives Truly Do Matter!
Learn More About Juneteenth:
Join the When We All Vote Couch Party – Juneteenth Edition
The Black Remembrance Project:
See ads by former slaves in search of family. Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery
The Chicago Defender: See suggestions for Juneteenth celebration
Sign NAACP petitions for George Floyd and others at “We Are Done Dying”https://www.naacp.org/campaigns/we-are-done-dying/