June What?

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By Robert Lilly | July 1, 2010

For many June in Texas is the month that has been designated the time to celebrate the immense occasion: Freedom Day. This title was given by blacks for blacks. It was issued to commemorate the day the slaves were ‘set free’ here in Texas. Albeit, the information came late to the slaves of the areas around Corsicana and Galveston, nonetheless, it was received with great jubilation and spontaneous celebration. Blacks poured into the streets after listening to the words read by the then representative of Mr. Lincoln; Gen. Gordon Granger who accompanied the circumstance with great fanfare as he read the proclamation from the bow of a Union warship. Lincoln had made it to take affect on January 1, 1863. The slaves of Galveston, Texas were not officially made aware of this until the hand signed order from president Lincoln was read on June 19, 1865. {{more}} This celebratory event has been shrouded in misinformation, prejudice and in some instances, cowardice for far to long; therefore, it behooves me to provide some information about the true nature of this fortuitous day in hopes that I might benefit some of my fellow Abilenians. I have heard some question the relevance of such a ‘holiday.’ First off, this is not a holy day. Holidays are set by the Almighty and this event, although not possible without the divine forces of destruction set in motion by our All wise Creator, this day is a man made, or established event. It was ordered to be recognized here in Texas by the state legislature in 1980 after much intense debate and despite the vitriol and cantankerous spirit of not too few fellow Texans. This celebratory event is historically associated with both joy and fear, also hope and resistance. The place of blacks in America has always been one of mixed emotions. We have always viewed this unique experiment with a certain degree of consternation and at times abject disbelief. This was primarily owed to the glaring contradictions evident from the inception of this nation. We have not, even now faced up to our miserable and complexed past. We would much rather hide from it, ignore it and pretend that all is well than to address the still lingering remnants of this stain on our tradition of so-called democracy. Those who claim to be sincere about seeing racial reconciliation but who refuse to about-face and confront this demon are, in my opinion deluded and perhaps cowards. Others who advocate advancement and ‘progress’ in racial relations are also equally delusional. Both groups want the heat of fire without the strike of the match. We have to bare these wounds in order for a scab to form and the flesh to heal. Much ado has been made concerning the love-hate relationship black people have with the Juneteenth celebration. We know that historically support for these celebratory events throughout Texas and the other 36 states where this is recognized as a legitimate day of celebration has waned. We rarely connect this with the general lack of awareness of black people to their history. of the history in America? We are the failures because we have done so little to make our youth aware of our collective past and the obstacles to freedom we have had to pass by. Also we seldom mention the word slavery in any of our gatherings. Listening to some blacks one would think it a dirty word. We are so busy attempting to be included in the mainstream society’s purview that we have lost sight of our course-while there is still much left to be done. We have dropped the baton and not into the hand of the awaiting runner who is determined to finish this race that leads to both salvation and human redemption. We are the cause of this loss of culture and art and science and industry. We are the cause, because we have left The Cause. We have abandoned our post to venture off on this fool’s run seeking individual prosperity at the expense of group survival. I wonder if this attitude had been in the minds of the many black Civil War soldiers, who laid down their lives for the then enslaved and the future free, if we would have anything to celebrate? I doubt it, we perhaps might still be in chains and on plantations or laboring without hope of any type of compensation. Reparations is another ‘foreign word’ to many blacks and for some a filthy word in our mouths. We would much rather dismiss, minimize and rationalize the misuse and abuse of the countless numbers of our people in the past, than to seek for a solution that in a reasonable and sensible way reinforces the human dignity that was stripped from us by our former slave masters. This is a significant part of the problem because if we cannot see our worthiness to reparations then how can we think that we are worthy to decent health care or a living wage for our labors? I would think that to covet one and neglect the other is tantamount of attempting to run a race but insist that someone tie your left leg to your right. Lunacy isn’t it? The celebration of Juneteeth is our reminder of our great holocaust, our Maafa. We must too, like other civilized people say, Never Again. Picture someone telling the Jews to get over their past in relations to the Germans. We know what the outcome of that conversation would be. Well, why is it that we think so much less of ourselves. We have, as much as any other people on the face of this earth a right to mourn our sufferings, remembers our conquests, revere our fallen and hail our heroes. If we fail to make this next Juneteeth the best it has been, in light of its true significance to our collective survival we should never fix our lips to disparage another youth unless we have done our best to set in motion their real education.