Speech read at our Juneteenth event on June 19th 2019 by BLM B-town Core Council Member Amrita Myers
Happy Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. On June 19, 1865, enslaved men and women in Texas finally learned that they were free — several months after the end of the Civil War, and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the rebelling states. Of course, it didn’t free those enslaved persons in states that remained loyal to the Union, like Maryland and Delaware, or those which remained neutral, like Kentucky. And since the Confederacy considered itself a sovereign nation and ignored the Emancipation Proclamation, the enslaved in those states had to become fugitives, running away from captivity to free themselves from bondage. Freedom was a long time coming. Some might say it still hasn’t fully arrived.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some places a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics, and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the afro-future.
Every June 19th since 1865, African Americans across the nation have held celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. For many African Americans, it is a more significant celebration than Independence Day.
Black Live Matter Bloomington believes that we should make Juneteenth a national holiday so that we can truly celebrate everyone’s freedom! Making Juneteenth a national holiday would go a long way towards recognizing not just the history of slavery in this country, but also the struggles freed Black folk endured during and after the Reconstruction, including the fight for civil rights and against the marginalization, incarceration and brutal state violence we still face today. We call for the city, county and the state to help to support and recognize efforts to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday and to promote collective celebrations by funding them as well as other black events and cultural festivals.
Our celebration of Juneteenth is a part of our community outreach and coalition initiatives. We seek to educate, engage and enjoy our town and community. Thank you all for coming out to eat, drink, dance, and engage in community discussions in our Speak Out area. Please remember that the space we are in today, as with all BLM events, is a Black Space. Open your ears and minds to what Black folks are telling you so that you can affirm their truth.
~Core Council of Black Lives Matter Bloomington