Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Myriad celebrations are set for this month around the world. For African descendants of slaves, Juneteenth is likely the most important holiday. It represents Independence Day – the time in America’s history when the last enslaved Blacks gained their freedom. June is filled with enjoyment of culture. Lest we forget, it is also period of reflection. Looking backward enables us to move forward. We are reminded of our strength as a people. Ancestors brought to these shores when the first ship filled with Africans stolen from the Motherland arrived in the Virginia colony. There, they met unimaginable slaughter, atrocities, and misery for centuries to come. Chained together in the bellies of ships in their own and others’ bodily waste, they cried out for mercy! Going unheard, their cries would continue for centuries.
How do you survive when you’re torn from the arms of those you love? When your languages are taken, as though unneeded to live? When the strange land to which you’re brought is cold and snowy rather than filled with sunshine and warmth? When you no longer have a culture? When the construct of a “family unit” is erased by separation of your males and even your children? When children, like yourselves, become a mere commodity, birthed through rape to work the fields or in the Massas’ houses? When you can’t read or write and face death if somehow you learn to do so without Massa knowing?
While Juneteenth is to be celebrated, we cannot forget its true meaning. That is, strength, perseverance, and resilience have brought us to this day and time. If you believe in the Highest Being, as do I, you understand the role that faith that change would someday come played. While taking our younger ones to fun-filled festivals, we’re obligated to share with them the real meaning of Juneteenth. Although we may wish not to trouble their young spirits with this truth, we can’t afford not to. Our survival – even today – requires it.