I first heard of Juneteenth in 1994 after my move to Aurora, Colorado. A lot of black families living in the Denver area migrated from Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma where Juneteenth was celebrated for decades.
Maybe about a dozen years ago, Saint Daniels church in Chester started a Juneteenth celebration in the parking lot across the street from their church. A few years later Chester City government joined them to expand the celebration to Memorial Park.
The Juneteenth celebrations that do occur are typically community oriented and quite tasteful. They feature history, local artisans, food, entertainment, and are appreciated for their local intimacy.
Thanks to the year 2020, Juneteenth will never be the same again.
In another case of black people not getting what they ask for, here comes national recognition of Juneteenth.
People showed up to work Monday, and by Friday they were gifted a paid holiday off. All of a sudden stores closes on Friday for this new holiday no one knew about until a couple weeks ago. We even have a Juneteenth Betsy Ross who came up with a flag that was crowned official by someone somewhere.
Trump haters can’t fathom that he finally told a truth when he says he made Juneteenth famous by originally scheduling his Tusla, OK campaign rally there on June 19. For folks who support Juneteenth as a nationally recognized holiday, you gotta love Trump because when black folks asked for a Dr. Martin Luther King holiday after his death in 1968, it didn’t get signed into law until 1983, and even then wasn’t observed until 1986, and even then wasn’t officially observed in all 50 states until 2000. Hell, Trump nearly got all this done for Juneteenth in 3-weeks.
I opened the Delaware County Daily Times yesterday and choked on Juneteenth overload. Here are real headlines from yesterday’s paper:
- Upper Darby raises Juneteenth flag over township building
- Juneteenth celebrated, but not as full holiday
- Juneteenth: A day of joy and pain – and now national action
- Let’s take time for reflections on Juneteenth
- Support public policies that bring equality to all (it was a Juneteenth related guest column)
- The music industry is recognizing Juneteenth
- Delaware County Veterans Memorial holds Juneteenth celebration Friday
- Pogoda City Records releases mixtape to mark Juneteenth
Even the TV is full of Juneteenth programming. Mainstream American life really feels as though they’ve been left out of the Juneteenth movement for far too long and must catch up immediately. In the process, they find it necessary to hijack the whole spirit of Juneteenth which has been perfectly okay existing as a personal, local, and low key holiday, and turn it into a national day of guilt reduction. If you’re like me, you feel another day-of-service coming on, don’t you?
Some organizations are put in a tough position when they are forced to consider what happens if they honor Juneteenth when they already honor Columbus Day. Will they have to tarp the Columbus holiday to accommodate Juneteenth or can they both live happily ever after?
For black folks who take the sanctity of their holidays seriously, you better start building a wall around Kwanzaa because these same people may be circling the wagons for that holiday next. They’re going to insist you’ve been celebrating your own creation wrong all these years and out of more guilt find a way to Christmatize Kwanzaa for quick and easy national consumption.
All this Juneteenth fuss started with black folks (and a lot of white folks) taking to the streets asking again for police to stop killing unarmed black people. 19-days after the ask came Rayshard’s killing indicating the ask is still not getting through to the right people. But, what did get through results in a new national holiday.
Nobody asked for that.
Here’s a couple posts from Chester Juneteenth celebrations from the olden days…