Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Liberation Day, is a monumental moment for African Americans in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger’s reading of the Federal orders in the city in Galveston, Texas, proclaimed all slaves in Texas now were free. The news of the Emancipation freeing the slaves by President Lincoln took two years to reach Texans and by that time President Lincoln was dead and the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, had passed Congress. Even though the slaves were free many plantation owners wanted them to stay until after the harvest, so they encouraged them to stay on as hired employees. This shows the injustice between the people in power and those who worked for them. As proud union members we are still fighting against oppression every day.
Celebration of Juneteenth took many forms, including faith and community based celebrations with food, athletic competitions and readings from noted American writers such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. The Mascogos, descendants of Black Seminoles, of Coahuila, Mexico, also celebrate Juneteenth. In San Diego, the Cooper Family has led the Juneteenth Celebration for the past 50 years.
Juneteenth takes on a greater significance this year with all of the high profile killings and other incidents involving African Americans from all ages and economic backgrounds. The Black Lives Matters protests all over the United States and the world brings to the forefront the need for racial justice, reforms in police policy and procedures and changes in legislation that particularly disadvantage people of color.
Historian Mitch Kachun considers that celebrations of the end of slavery have three goals: “to celebrate, to educate and to agitate.”
What shall we do next? First, educate ourselves about Juneteenth, the accomplishments of African Americans throughout history and today. Support African American entrepreneurs. Sit down and have meaningful dialogue about the current climate of African Americans in the United States and the world we live in. Get out there and VOTE. If you are not registered, please do as soon as possible. Your vote counts! Please complete the 2020 Census and let us be counted so our communities can receive the resources we need.
Get involved in our Union’s African American Action Committee
Treasurer of SEIU Local 221
President of the African American Action Committee