By Guest Author, Simmie T.
I am a Black American. I have lived here my whole life in America. It is a very unique experience growing up as a black person in America, as we've had to constantly work twice as hard to get to where we are now. Black people have been held back for so long due to oppression, and the knowledge of who we are as a people has been splintered due to the separation experienced from slave auctions and other inhumane treatment.
My father picked cotton when he was a boy as did other young people who grew up in the early 50s and 60s. Black people weren't allowed to read, write, and could not fathom having their own autonomy and sense of self. We weren't even seen as human or taken seriously despite the laws put in place that were supposed to help us.....We've come a long way and the people before us have fought to break down barriers to enable us to be where we are today.
It’s such a wonderful thing to see Black people excel in business, art, and other career paths that we once exceled in but due to racism and other forms of oppression, we are held back in many instances. Our ancestors went through colonization to being enslaved and having to deal with untold horrors inflicted upon them for ages.
However, due to the Emancipation Proclamation, American Black people were given the freedom from slavery. Only in certain areas was this decree enforced, however. Fortunately, not too long after, our ancestors were able to reach a turning point in 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation was FINALLY given wings in Texas on June 19th of that year.
So closely after the Civil War ended on April 9th 1865, the Black individuals who lived in Texas (and unfortunately were the last of our kind to receive the gift of freedom due to their location still being under Confederate control), were finally able to witness the day their enslavement was nullified by executive decree.
A year after that glorious day, freedmen moved to commemorate the first of what would be a yearly tradition of celebrations, barbecuing, music, and other enjoyable activities. “Jubilee Day.” Due to freedmen and their families migrating from Texas to other parts of the country, this celebration was able to spread across the nation and became the event of the year for thousands of Black families.
This day came to be known as Juneteenth and has been celebrated onwards every year from that day. This day didn’t just mark the beginning of Black people in America's freedom, but it set the stage Black people to be able regain our own destinies. Black people who were formerly enslaved immediately began to do just that, by way of searching for lost relatives who had gotten separated from them, running for office, building schools and businesses, and reclaiming the dignity of what has been lost for so long.
It was only in 1979, that the state of Texas recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. In the years to follow, several other states followed in their footsteps and made the same acknowledgement. There are still systemic oppressions in America and throughout the globe that Black people face. So as we celebrate this momentous occasion, we are mindful that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Now further history has been made with the Senate passing a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday. The bill has been passed by the House and Senate and now awaits President Biden's signature. The acknowledgement of Juneteenth as a federal holiday is still a major step forward in nation's journey to acknowledging and atoning for the difficulties endured by our Black brothers and sisters.
There are still many obstacles ahead. In the past two years, racism has become a very hot topic in the media due to the exposure of injustice and unfairness that has always existed. It's been a long road getting the spotlight to shine on different issues that affect Black people here and those abroad in our mothering countries.
We are overwhelmed with gratitude that we get to have this opportunity that is supported by you all, but there are others who are still waiting for the chance to achieve success and they need our support. The truth is we all win when even one of us achieves their dreams, and we honor the ancestors that have sacrificed so much to create better conditions for the next generation, and those after who KEEP working tirelessly. We must continue to uplift and support each other.
Let’s make this Juneteenth a sensational one!- Simmie T.