Juneteenth is the day that we celebrate the freedom of Black people in the United States. On this day, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned about their freedom. It is important to remember that even though the emancipation proclamation decreed the end of slavery via Executive Order in southern states, it was not until the passage of the 13th amendment that it ended in border states like Delaware and Kentucky. Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, but also the voyage to it.
It is a day to celebrate freedom and the ideals of justice. A day where Black people were no longer considered property but human beings who should be able to live, breathe, and navigate through life just like any other person. While Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, it is also a chance to reflect on the complexities of Black history and what freedom actually means for Black people and the work left to do to actualize the ideals of freedom, equity and justice.
True freedom for Black people expands beyond laws. Freedom is about being able to live healthy, safe, and joyful lives. True freedom is freedom from explicit forms of racism, but it is also freedom from implicit bias and microaggressions that cause harm. It is freedom from police violence and the ability to live in healthy communities. Freedom is not only about the ability to live but to thrive.
Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and yet we cannot ignore that to achieve our vision of freedom we must fight for transformative change that requires addressing white supremacy and systemic racism. This work of getting free requires us to use all the tools at our disposal.
Our journey towards Black freedom was apparent during the political uprisings in 2020. Last year, people all over the world stood together in opposition to police violence. Millions of people took to the streets in what has been called the largest movement protest in U.S. history. Globally, international citizens recognized the harsh treatment policing institutions inflicted on Black people simply for being Black. These social movements continued for months with a promise, deeply ingrained in our hearts, that we would not stop until justice was served for George Floyd and all victims of police violence. While there was some accountability for the killing of George Floyd, we understand justice requires the transformation of the systems that allowed for the killing of him, Breonna Taylor, and so many others.
The fight for freedom is an ongoing battle that requires us to take political action and create intentional communities that empower social movements to push against the status quo. In The Power Of Building a Political Home: Black Civic Engagement and Movement Organizing, Gamble mentions that we achieve this “by creating spaces that center community, celebrate and affirm Blackness, and understand and are responsive to the issues plaguing Black communities.”
Juneteenth is freedom. It is the freedom to take up space in spaces that deem Black people unworthy. It is the freedom to be unapologetic about Black history and identity. Most importantly, it is a moment to reflect on how people-powered movements are lighting a path for transformative changes and ways in which we can support and sustain that work.