OPINION (PROJECT 21) – The second federally-observed Juneteenth holiday once again falls on a weekend, which means the federal government, banks and other institutions are observing Juneteenth 2022 on the following Monday.
A paid day off. No mail service. Libraries closed. No parking enforcement. And not on the official day of Juneteenth.
Is this what the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas envisioned when they began commemorating Juneteenth?
Members of the Project 21 black leadership network have observed and discussed Juneteenth for the past 23 years. They are sharing their insight on the proper ways to commemorate Juneteenth as a national holiday.
“There are those who would use Juneteenth to tell me that I am a victim and to condemn our great nation by forever labeling it as a regime of oppression,” said Project 21 member A. Sonia Morris. “I prefer to see Juneteenth as yet another step in the process of our society trying to live up to the ideals of its founding documents. American history has its dark chapters that we must all remember, yet the grand arc of our nation’s history has been that of ever-expanding opportunities for all people and a recognition that ‘all men are created equal’ with certain unalienable rights.”
While retailers like JCPenney have announced sales marking black Americans’ emancipation from slavery, none has been as crass as Walmart – which briefly offered a Juneteenth-themed flavor of ice cream.
“For me, making Juneteenth a federal holiday merely represents a symbolic gesture of the left towards black Americans – and the symbolism never ends,” said Project 21 member Kathleen Wells. “Black Americans need more than symbolism; they need substance. Despite rolling with the liberal establishment for seven decades, they are facing zero median wealth by 2053. This is certainly nothing to celebrate. Social progress follows economic progress. Until black Americans have intact families with daddies leading the way, black Americans will not progress economically nor socially.”
Historically, Juneteenth has commemorated the anniversary of the June 19, 1865 arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas. The soldiers brought with them news of the end of the Civil War two months earlier, and how President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery two and a half years earlier. Galveston’s former slave population began celebrating its freedom annually on the anniversary of this day. Juneteenth grew to become a motivating and stabilizing commemoration for black Texans experiencing the uncertainties associated with their newfound freedom and a full integration into American society.
While Juneteenth was recognized by almost every state and by presidential proclamations before 2020, the death of George Floyd and subsequent political activism brought about the passage of legislation in 2021 to make Juneteenth a formal federal holiday. The first Juneteenth federal holiday fell on a Saturday, but was observed by governments and others on the preceding Friday.
“Juneteenth is a cause for celebration and forgiveness – not separatism and anger,” said Project 21 Director of Membership Development Donna Jackson. “But, as always happens when Big Government gets involved, the results end up disappointing. Celebrate emancipation locally, mindful of its roots in the pursuit of opportunity and exceptionalism.”
Since 1999, Project 21 members have focused on the values inherent to Juneteenth celebrations – such as a self-improvement and community – and have urged black Americans both to avoid the pitfalls of negativity and victimhood and to embrace the opportunities that America has to offer.
“Juneteenth is a great time for all Americans to reflect upon the many invaluable contributions that black Americans have made to establish America as a great nation and to make it what it is in the world today,” said Project 21 member Pastor James Jackson. “The Juneteenth holiday is a great time for Americans to talk with each other and their children about Juneteenth’s significance and how important it is to make sure that our children are informed about the truths and realities of slavery.”