Juneteenth – What Does It Mean to You?

Juneteenth received its name by combining June and 19. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1866. 

The day was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.  

In light of our new federal holiday Junteenth, we wanted to celebrate our artists by asking them and highlighting what the day means to them and what we as a society should learn from  the history of the day.

“For me, Juneteenth represents the true freedom and emancipation of Black people in America. It is a symbol of persistence and a time to celebrate Black culture and reflect on the ways in which it has made its mark and impact on this world. It is a time to be proud of my heritage, my family, my culture and spread more about it to the next generation.  We should learn that in America, not all citizens are free at the same time. It took nearly 100 years after the Declaration of Independence for Black folks to receive freedom. We should also note that the Emancipation Proclamation didn't reach all slaves simultaneously. Therefore, we should focus on being conscious of our collective history as a nation, and spend time researching, gathering and sharing this history so it doesn't get lost.” Angelo “Eye-Am-Bic” Geter

“Juneteenth means to me, is the start of telling the whole history of America and not cherry picking the great things and sugarcoating the best things about this country. There’s so much history we haven’t learned in school and I feel if every child was exposed to all of American history this country would be in a better place today.  What we should learn from Juneteenth is the rawness and realness of what happened to a group of people back in those days so moving forward we’re not doomed to repeat such hateful atrocities towards others who may look different from you, or have a different religion or different sexual preference.”  E.L. Smith

“Juneteenth was always special to me, even before it was made a national holiday. It is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. For me, it marks the date of significance in American History and shows us that freedom and racial equality have always been a hard-fought battle for black Americans, a battle that still continues to this very day.  What we should learn from it is very clear, we still have a lot of work to do. We cannot just stop because we feel we have made it over the hill, there is still much work to be done. You can do your part by supporting black businesses, sharing black people you admire, educating yourself on black history and taking time to celebrate freedom. Ultimately, it all goes back to using your voice and spreading love, not hate.” Justin Brown

“To me, although Juneteenth is a celebration, it is also a reminder of the blatant cruelty/ inhumanity of this country towards Black and indigenous people, especially considering many plantation owners withheld informing those enslaved on their plantations of their “freedom" for weeks, months, and some even for generations as there are cases of families that were still living and working on plantations/land here in Louisiana unaware of their freedom in recent years.  As far as what I feel should be learned from it – that human beings should never/ should have never been considered property to begin with, this country should put the resources it places into celebrating the 4th of July into Juneteenth, and that an official apology, reparations, and an end to modern-day slavery (which it continues to practice in many forms such as school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, state-mandated violence, etc) is still owed to my people. Juneteenth is also a reminder that no weapon formed against us has truly prospered, because we are still here – Black, beautiful, brilliant, and jubilant.”  iCon

“In elementary school, we had Kwanzaa celebrations every year and looking back I appreciate that our school took the time to celebrate and honor the Black community. While I have celebrated Kwanzaa, Juneteenth is still new to me.  In fact, I didn't know about Juneteenth until Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino had an episode of Atlanta on the subject. I never really celebrated Juneteenth until certain politicians had us question the value of Black Lives.  Honestly, I didn't celebrate it until Trump was the president. I grappled with so much about America during his harrowing time in the political spotlight. Juneteeth reminds us that some African Americans needed more time to get the news that they were free. Some Blacks were celebrating freedom and liberty, while others were still in chains.  I'm reminded that the inequality still exists and there is still much that needs to be addressed. Namely, Louisiana has a huge prison that is overcrowded with African Americans. Many of them are serving life sentences for minor offenses. Louisiana State Penitentiary, as it's now called, recently changed its name from “Angola Prison." Angola Prison is on land which used to be a slave plantation. That plantation was called Angola because the enslaved Africans were taken from the country of Angola. We can only begin healing when we are freed from the ties that bind us.”   Chris Jones

Take a moment to reflect on what used to be.  Look how far we have come but how much further we still have to go.  Be mindful that everyone's thoughts and memories of the past are different and respect what this day means to those around you.  Stand together and we can be an even stronger world.  Stop the hate and build on the love.

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