Monday, June 19, 2006

Happy Juneteenth?

Today, June 19, 2006, is a Texas holiday called Juneteenth. For you non-Texans who may not be familiar with this holiday, I'll elaborate. The Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in this country, became effective on January 1, 1863. However, due to the lack of union soldiers in Texas, life in the lone star state remained unchanged, with slavery continuing beyond that date. It was not until June 19, 1865 that union soldiers finally showed up in Galveston and Texas slaves learned that they had been freed some two and one-half years earlier. Juneteenth was officially established as a Texas-state holiday in 1979.

Juneteenth elicits celebrations and festivals all across the state of Texas. Church and community groups -- sometimes dressed like slaves -- put on performances, and have cookouts and barbecues to commemorate the late emancipation of Texas slaves. All-in-all, Juneteenth is a big deal in Texas.

I have never felt strongly about Juneteenth one way or the other, but I wonder, should we really be CELEBRATING the fact that black folks in Texas were forced to be slaves for two and one-half years longer than black folks in the rest of the country? If anything, shouldn't the descendants of those freed by Juneteenth be seeking reparations for the two and one-half years of free labor their ancestors performed?

Don't get me wrong -- I recognize and appreciate the resilience that it took (and is taking) to bounce back from realizing that you were enslaved during a period when you didn't have to be; however, I think black folks with roots in Texas should be doing more than just pulling out the grill and slapping some meat on it.



thespookwhosatbythedoor said...

Preach Notta! And the deacon says, "Wellll!"

I must admit that I never knew the origins of Juneteenth. Given the history behind the date, I agree that the descendants of those slaves should be looking for more poignant ways of commemorating this date.

Barbeques are great... but dammit pay me!

Notta's Dad said...

“Meat on the grill”? “…how much for just one rib?” I see Juneteenth as a celebration just like July 4th. At least with Juneteenth we don’t have the blatant commercialism that’s associated with July 4th. I guess there’s not enough potential to make money since Juneteenth is really a black regional holiday. Even so, the true intent of the holiday is diminished and replaced with a barbeque.

Memorial Day is supposed to celebrate those that served in the armed forces protecting the right of every American to exercise free speech and the pursuit of happiness. But ask the common American and all that holiday signals is the end of school and the beginning of summer. Black history month is celebrated by attending a cultural event, concert or at least watching a PBS special on “the black experience”. I think Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month, had more in mind and would say that the spirit of Black History Month has been diminished over time.

It was after all, Mr. Woodson who said “Truth comes to us from the past, then, like gold washed down from the mountains.” As that gold trickled down the mountain a lot of it was lost along the way. That does not reduce the value of the gold that finally makes it all the way down. On the contrary it makes it more valuable.

beyourowndiva said...

I applaud your spirit but, on this one, Notta, I'm gotta agree to disagree.

I feel that Juneteeth should be celebrated. I don't think that it is celebrating the delayed freedom of the slaves in Texas but the end of slavery as a whole. Juneteenth is more of a symbolic day.

Actaully I think it should be celebrated by the black, the white, the red & the brown, the people & yell-o! Slavery, enslaved ALL people! Either mentally or monetarirly.

While black people by far, suffered the most horrific tragedies of slavery.
I think that some people don't realize what impact slavery had on them. It caused the wages of poor free people to be next to nothing. They could not demand higher wages because they would have been replaced with slave labor.

I have tried ,in vain, to envision what it would be like to be a slave. Truly try to imagine it on a real level. Imagine if someone you have never seen before came and took you from your comortable home and chained you to hundreds of people at the bottom of a boat.Imagine if the person next to you died and you were weeks away from land. Truly Imagine.

It's worth celebrating!

The day the end of slavery was announced is not as important as the day it stopped.

All people need to recognize and celebrate the end of slavery as it has benefit to everyone.

vwunder1 said...

Speaking of putting meat on the grill, I’m hungry. Well, I really believe that we need to all get together more as a people, be it for Juneteenth or for any other “community centering” holiday, tradition or religious practice. While I agree with the Notta that the brothas and sistas in Texas, as well as all of us that are descendants of slaves should educate ourselves and commit to action on reparations ( a movement that was gaining steam before the “War on Terror”), I also firmly believe that “community centering” activities can in themselves offer our youth an alternative - an alternative to those activities that in a perverse way are “community killing” traditions, like joining gangs.

The community centering traditions and the community killing traditions both offer our youth a chance at social bonding and a sense of self-worth and collective responsibility. One can be the generator of positive leaders in our community that aspire to better black people, while the other is a generator of destructive leaders in the community that seek to propel themselves at the expense of their brothas and sistas. So while Juneteenth has some marginal historical significance its current social significance, along with other traditions like Kwaanza, African-American day parades and Church/ Mosque participation, make it a worthwhile endeavor. Our kids need to see that we as a people have positive institutions and traditions that will one day require that they do the organizing and meat grilling now being done by their parents.

This is my first blog posting. Thank you Notta for insighting intelligent dialogue and conviction. This represents the next phase in the self-resucitation of African-Americans.


Notta Golddigger said...

Thank you VWUNDER, I appreciate your kinds words.

I also agree with you that community events help solidify the strength of the black communities. However, we know black folks are quick to find a reason to have a cookout. I just don't want the message and meaning of Juneteenth to be lost upon our children -- similar in the way that Memorial Day has become just a long weekend, rather than a celebration of those who have fought for this country.

Thanks again for your comments, and I look forward to more!


ljh1999 said...

I love cook-outs and long weekends, no matter the occasion. I sure enjoy Columbus Day and Presidents Day even though they both were not really meant to be celebrated by me. But you sure won't find me at work.