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Juneteenth: A reminder of structural racism

Events now emphasize education, achievement and reflection

Lisa Olivia Fitch | 6/16/2021, 3:13 p.m.
Juneteenth is a symbol of the end of chattel slavery...
Juneteenth will be celebrated this weekend across Los Angeles County. Holly J. Mitchell's Office

Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, has a renewed significance in the wake of last summer’s protests. The holiday is a symbol of the end of chattel slavery and the continued fight for freedom for African-Americans.

Celebrated on June 19th annually, Juneteenth commemorates the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The arrival of troops came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

Slavery had remained relatively unaffected in Texas and there are various stories told as to why. The state had not experienced much fighting during the Civil War and there were not many Union troops there. Did a messenger die before he could reach that then-westernmost state? Did the slaveholders want to hold the message until they got a better harvest from their workers?

The Civil War ended May 9, 1865 and on June 19, U.S. Gen. Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

That December, slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.

During the early 1900s, there was a decline in Juneteenth celebrations, but a resurgence of the holiday began during the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s. As the national racial reckoning continues, and with it, a new understanding of the country's complicated past, many corporations and organizations recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday. This year, as Juneteenth is on a Saturday, participating organizations will observe the day on Friday, June 18.

“Understand the history,” certified life and business coach Dr. Sonja Stribling told NNPA Black Press. “But utilize this date to empower yourself, as empowerment is what this day is all about!”

Stribling offered five tips to help feel empowered this Juneteenth:

Understand your history: Juneteenth can be a launch point to delve into your own personal history. Try journaling to understand how your past has shaped who you are today.

Know when to say no: Evaluate your boundaries, find power and strength in knowing when it’s best for you to say no to an event, a person, or anything you don’t want to do. Equally important is knowing when to ask for help.

Draw your road map To P.O.W.E.R: (Possibilities, Opportunities, Wealth, Wellbeing, Worth, Excellence and Responsibility). Seize the possibilities and opportunities open to you, recognize your worth, reinvest in yourself to build wealth, prioritize your wellbeing, approach all aspects of life with excellence, and share the responsibility of helping others.

Make a routine ritual: Treat yourself, every single day. Start by finding something you love to do. Each day, set aside at least five minutes to do that exact same thing. The mind will look forward to this routine self-time.

Share your story: Don’t just post to social media, talk to people in your life. Share your story to empower your loved ones and yourself. You never know who needs to hear what you’ve been through.

"Freedom for me has always been found in the outdoors, unencumbered by human prejudice," said Founder and CEO Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. "The direct connection to the earth has always enabled me to connect with my story and the stories of my ancestors. This year, more than ever, the concept of freedom is complex and nuanced. I invite everyone to spend time considering the word, its origins, and how it is applied in this country."

Outdoor Afro invites participants to contemplate what freedom truly means in America by visiting a nearby park, forest or beach in honor of Juneteenth for 2.5 hours (in honor of the 2.5 years freedom was denied for 250,000 enslaved people in Texas). Participants are then encouraged to submit written, audio, or video reflections at OutdoorAfro.com/juneteenth2021. Outdoor Afro will aggregate, organize and publish some of the reflections. Registration before Juneteenth is encouraged but not required.

In honor of Juneteenth and Black Music Month, Community Build, Inc. (CBI) will host the African American Heritage Month (AAHM) Legacy Project, a retrospective exhibit showcasing over 100 pictures, memorabilia, and documents on emancipation, civil rights, writers, inventors, Motown and the presidency of Barack Obama.

The outdoor self-guided walking exhibit is open daily, free to the public, and can be viewed through the months of June and July at the offices of Community Build, Inc. at 4305 Degnan Blvd. in Leimert Park Village.

“Black men and women’s contributions to this country really can’t be overstated,” said CBI President Robert Sausedo. “On the heels of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the Oklahoma Wall Street Massacre, we need to acknowledge the historic and cultural contributions of African-Americans in making this country what it is today.”

For more information on the AAHM Legacy Project visit Communitybuildinc.org or call (323) 290-6560.

Registration is needed to participate in Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell’s Juneteenth Celebration & Resource Fair on Friday, June 18th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Earvin "Magic" Johnson Park, 905 E. El Segundo Blvd. The free community event will offer onsite COVID-19 vaccinations along with food trucks, guest speakers, record expungement, music, and other activities. Space is limited. visit Mitchell.LACounty.gov/Juneteenth.

The Brotherhood Crusade invites the community to join the organization in celebration on Friday, June 18, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Crete Academy, 6103 Crenshaw Blvd. The event will feature health and wellness activities and provide families with food baskets, backpacks, school supplies, COVID-19 testing, and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Guests are requested to wear masks and practice social distancing at the free event. For more information, email omosley-bremond@brotherhoodcrusade.org or call (323) 846-1649.