Its a celebration of freedom! Of freedom’s song. Its why we dance because freedom rings! We sing to lift every voice of our authentic gardens and perfumes. A coming together to remind the United States of America that we are the creators of US culture, in all of its intensity. Throughout decades and centuries of overcoming brutality, abuse, racism, sexism, injustice, and a plethora of other forms of violence, continuing one’s existence, throughout different genres in time, was essential. In fact, it was a necessity if current generations were going to achieve freedom’s dream.
Juneteenth is also known as the year of “Jubilee.” It means happiness is in store. There is much to be celebrated. And, in every celebration, the culture comes to play. Dress, dance, song, love, happiness! It’s these images, which gives the final victory. For they show that our people were not “defeated.” Not in this sense, anyhow. That Black Americans continued to flourish, and exists, in a state of impossibilities.
With all of the issues happening in these current times, the spirit of celebration is alive, and well. In fact, having a Juneteenth 2020 celebration in the midst of murders, and violent aggression, against unarmed Black American men, women, and youth is imperative. For a people to celebrate their existence is one of the most powerful things to do. For them to honor, and acknowledge, healthy images of their Being is the very essence of life. Seeing Black American communities across the nation, in laughter, joy, exhibiting our culinary, and highlighting that, we too, are a people of culture, is necessary for the world to see. Its imperative because Black American culture can be found in practically every nation, and among other communities. From the music, style, linguistics, and dress, it can be spotted. For too long, too many have been oblivious, or have refused, to place place the people with the culture. Refusing to acknowledge Black American people within their own culture, and even when doing so, purposefully removing the feminine presence (often getting the lightest of them), in order to feel that they have power over the people. That is changing. In fact, it is coming to an end.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordan Granger of the Union army read the famous order, that would be the start of this holiday. Taking place in Galveston, Texas, it was known as Order No. 3. There were approximately 250,000 enslaved, Black American people in the city of Galveston. Let it be known that two years prior, the Emancipation Proclamation had ended slavery in those states, which had rebelled against the Union, under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Despite order No. 3, there were still attempts by slave masters to prolong the institution of slavery. Some even went as far as performing violence against enslaved Black American people, for leaving when they learned about their freedom. Needless to say, that didn’t stop the call for liberation and desire for freedom. (See source: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/)
When celebrating the spirit, and very essence of Juneteenth, there is a particular essence when it comes to highlighting Black American culture. For one, it illuminates another tradition in our culture, which calls for the gathering of family. The display and delight of our traditional culinary. Our myriad forms of soul food, which articulates and highlights our stories of enslavement, and different periods of migration, up North. Then there is the music, the dance, the poetry, marching bands, and the language, which defines our experiences here in these United States of America. The legacy of Juneteenth is more than our her/history of slavery. Too often people want to restrict our stories to simply being that of sorrow, pain, depression, and anything which is undesirable. Ongoing narratives of a “hard living” are consistently placed on the table. However, when it comes to joy, and valuing life, even in the midst of hardship, these stories are rarely told. Not only are they not as vigilant, but they are sometimes seen as “odd.” All too often people like to exploit our pain. Find joy and elevation in our struggles. Celebrations such as Juneteenth rebuke every part of that.
For Black American communities, celebrating the vibrancy and illumination of our existence is a powerful tool, in its own. Jubilant festivities allows us to showcase our humanity. Just as any other group of people are allowed to do so. This brings another pivotal point, as to why the celebration of Juneteenth is so phenomenal.
One of the problems concerning the narrative of slavery in the United States is that it consistently uses the term, slave, as a marker for Black American foremothers and forefathers. I recall during my undergraduate experience, at Spelman College, a professor of mine articulating an incident of correction. This incident came in the form of correcting a White American visitor, who wanted to use the term “slave,” as opposed to “enslaved.” I’d also go with the latter. In fact, it illuminates the reality that slavery does not always make a people unaware of their humanity. The term “slave” does nothing but remove a people from their culture, and sense of awareness. You can enslave a people. Yet, that doesn’t mean that they believe in their status.
Another wellness factor in the Juneteenth celebration is that it focuses on the return to having control over one’s identity. Meaning that a people are returning to coloring their humanity with a different design, than what others are used to seeing them. It is a painting of our own creation. One that portrays holistic images of our Being. One which makes us the authoritarians on our own culture, her/history, and overall existence. In fact that is one of the cultural attributes of freedom. A people who have control over their culture, imagery, its comfort, and economic security of their Being have achieved one of the many essentials of liberation. In fact, it provides a unique lens into the real work, which is required. That work is ongoing, and one celebration does not mean it has reached completion. In fact, that work is never completed; not for any culture, in fact.
One of the colorful auras, pertaining to the celebration of Juneteenth 2020, is that it has created a Spirit of peace and comfort for Black America’s mental psyche-even if it is for the temporary moment. In the midst of the protests and anger, arising, Black America has to be reminded of our humanity. Our culture has always been that system of Universal support. Our music, dance, song, and creativity is what has re-birthed us into existence. Going with the times and allowing time and re-color us all over again. Even in the midst of racism and sexism’s lie against us, as the late and great Toni Morrison would say, the “dirtying” of our existence. Purposefully trying to taint our image with filth to the point, where many of us would believe it; thereby, hating the very sight of our existence.
The Juneteenth Celebration, and others like it, articulates for the world, that Black America, her culture, and people, are a beautiful sight to see. When we present ourselves in beauty, we are re-claiming power over our mental health, and wellness. Furthermore, we are also ensuring that future generations of our children are loving themselves, and who they are. This is to be understood and realized. In addition, it is a work of art when people are able to feel the beauty of their existence. Embracing themselves in such a way that we perform the euphoria to simply, be! Its all part of the process of re-healing ourselves during these times. Celebrating the very wellness of a, JUBILEE!
Enjoy this video on the her/history and meaning of Juneteenth! https://youtu.be/JOOguH71–E