Juneteenth, also referred to as Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day is the oldest nationally commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. June 19, 1865 marks the day and year that Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Texas to inform an unwilling community that the President Lincoln expected them to comply with orders of the Emancipation Proclamation which was issued in 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. Upon hearing the news of the proclamation, the slaves in Texas were triumphant and began to celebrate with food, singing, dancing, and prayer. Though the celebration originated in Texas, most states and other countries have since passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a day of commemoration.
Over the years, in the United States, the celebration of Juneteenth has had years of great engagement to years of little recognition. Today, Juneteenth has returned as a day to not only celebrate freedom but to honor and revel African American achievements. In the midst of racial strife it is difficult for African Americans to speak of freedom. The focus is on removing the invisible shackles, and with loud voices, reminding the nation that Black Lives Matter because as stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse, and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.” We stand to give voice to African Americans, their dignity, their achievements, their resilience. We stand on the shoulders of all of the slaves, whose freedom was delayed but not denied; their endurance, their courage, their fortitude, their faith, their love, their determination.
As we celebrate Juneteenth, honoring the words of Howard Thurman, “Do not be silent; there is no limit to the power that may be released through you”…through us. Together we are the Voice of Change.