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Perspective: Juneteenth is for all Americans

Juneteenth celebration in Rockford, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez Franco
Juneteenth celebration in Rockford, 2020

For the last few years, I’ve joyfully served on the Juneteenth Community Celebration team. This is the 4th year this celebration has taken place in DeKalb, Illinois. As a member of the planning team who was raised in this community it’s been amazing to watch this celebration grow and be an inclusive gathering for all those who wish to participate. It’s also revelatory to hear all the ignorance and non-support for the event as well. I’ve heard comments like “this is un-American,” “this is a DEI ploy,” and “this is part of the Woke Agenda.” Because of my “glass-half-full” nature, I contribute these uninformed comments to the lack of truth and white-washing taught in American History.

 

On July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted, this nation declared its independence for Great Britain. Yet, chattel slavery for imported Africans was still in full effort. While in the midst of a Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which declared all enslaved persons within the rebellious states henceforward free, effective January 1st, 1863.

 

With no mass communication system, internet, or 21st Century technology, the message of freedom traveled slow. On June 19, 1865, almost two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation the message of freedom finally reached Galveston Bay, Texas. The newly liberated enslaved people named the day “Juneteenth.”

 

Juneteenth is American history and should be celebrated by all who call this nation home. It’s a day to reckon with the past and embrace a brighter future. A day this nation moved closer to fulfilling its creed of “liberty and justice for all.”

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., George Joseph “Joe” Mitchell was raised in DeKalb, where he is the bi-vocational co-pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.