Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Emancipation Day, commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865 and, more generally, the emancipation declared by President Abraham Lincoln. Celebrated on June 19, the term blends the words June and nineteenth, to create “Junteenth” which is a recognized state holiday or special day of observance in most states (including Michigan). We asked 14th CD Executive Committee member and former GOP candidate for U.S. Congress Christina Barr to offer her thoughts on Juneteenth 2015. See Christina’s thoughts at this link.
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a document that would change the world forever: the Emancipation Proclamation. During wartime, he used his Presidential powers to write a document that would be a symbol of freedom throughout history and beyond even today. The Proclamation stated “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
With the stroke of a pen, more than three million of the four million slaves were issued their freedom. But, of course, that depended on whether or not the Union would succeed in battle. What it did succeed in was fundamentally transforming the face of the Civil War into a fight for freedom.
On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant and the last battle was fought at Palmito Ranch, Texas, on May 13. Slavery itself didn’t end officially until December 6, when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.
News of the end of the Civil War didn’t reach Texas until May, and the army of Trans-Mississippi didn’t surrender until June 2. On June 18, Union General Gordon Granger came to Galveston Island, Texas representing the federal government and announced the total emancipation of all slaves. Blacks could not be held as slaves any longer, and if they were to continue their work, they must be compensated.
On June 19th, former slaves rejoiced in the streets of Galveston and that date became an annual celebration known as Juneteenth. It’s a celebration representing more than just freedom. To me, Juneteenth is a perfect reminder that freedom will never mean anything as long as you believe yourself to be in bondage.
If one of those slaves dancing in the streets of Galveston could fast forward straight into 2015, I wonder what he or she would see. Would they still be rejoicing at the strides that our people have made to overcome racism and smile with pride at our profound impact on our country, or would they weep at the missed opportunities that their descendants squander today?
When I ran for U.S Congress as Representative, my first official speech was completely off the cuff and straight from my heart. I spoke of how I grew up in Pontiac where now, all of my childhood schools are abandoned buildings. The children spoke of their limited perspective on their futures. No one had creative or specific dreams.
When I moved to a rural area, the students knew that they wanted to be reconstructive surgeons or engineers. They had libraries full of books and computers and more classes than I could ever imagine. When my brother went to college to study architecture, he didn’t understand why he was the only one “behind”. That’s because in schools like Holly High, they had CAD design classes. I wouldn’t have been able to take as many art and literature classes in Pontiac, and those skills that I learned started me on a pathway to begin my own publishing company because I could write and design my own covers and websites and etc.
In my speech, I talked about changing the culture of my community. I think we live in a society today where we are our own captors. Instead of picketing to earn $15 an hour at McDonalds, we need to ask ourselves how we can get into a position to own a franchise or two. We need to regain our entrepreneurial spirit. Not everyone is going to make it into the NBA, and the players still aren’t as rich as their owners.
When the former slaves of Galveston were banned from celebrating Juneteenth in the public parks, the freed people pooled their money to buy land to hold their celebrations. What a powerful lesson to learn from today! No matter what circumstances are presented in front of you, there is a way to take control. Let no man stop you. Urban communities may have low income families, but imagine how much more our communities would thrive if we invested back into them. Why can’t we buy from one another? Help one another? Encourage one another?
Common tactics of slave owners were to ban them from religious gatherings, separate families, not let them marry, and to keep them from being educated. This was a tactic to continually dehumanize and break us. Today, the structure of the family is under deliberate attack, Christianity has seen a rise in persecution, and children are being indoctrinated instead of educated in many schools. It’s no wonder why we see such a rapid decline in our urban communities.
Think about this. The same people that try to create and feed into class welfare are the exact same people that encourage low income families to abort the children they can’t afford. It appears to me that liberal theology creates an environment where those in poverty are constantly designed to fail. Welfare gives you enough to sustain, but not enough to grow. If you become rich, you're demonized and they fight to redistribute your wealth. They push for high minimum wage, which pushes businesses to move their cheap labor overseas. So instead of having good pay, we have less jobs. And instead of investing in good jobs like in energy where you could make six figures instead of fighting for $10 an hour, the government resists under the guise of saving the planet, and they preach this message from their jets and their yachts. They give those in poverty scraps while they’re exempt from their own teachings. But the scraps look good, so we keep voting for the same policies that keep us exactly where we are while we kill ourselves off. They found the perfect method to control us, and we fight to let them do it.
This upcoming Juneteenth, I invite everyone to consider the past, present, future. Slavery is not legally practiced in our country, but honestly, it doesn’t need to be in order to keep us in chains. We have to wake up and be the positive change. Then, we have to be active in voting for positive change. Juneteenth isn’t about slavery ending, because that’s not the day the war ended or when the nation became free. It was a day of enlightenment. It’s a celebration about the power of perception.
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