• Stacey R. Queen

Juneteenth vs. July 4th: Which Holiday Do You Celebrate?

Q: What does a July 4th celebration look like after five and a half weeks of social unrest across the county sparked by the horrific death of George Floyd and the presence of a global health crisis?

A: Grim!

No big family cookouts and large gatherings, no trips to the beach, and no spectacular firework displays due to social distancing rules brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. This moment feels despondent. Two weeks ago we felt slightly empowered. Just for a moment, we took our minds off of the pandemic and police brutality against black and brown bodies, to pay homage to the moment our ancestors became free from bondage. The recognition of Juneteenth brought on feelings of renewed joy and jubilation. Today, many people are beginning to embrace, celebrate, and learn more about the legacy of this holiday. On June 19, 1865, in Gavelston, Texas, our ancestors were all finally free, well so they thought. Quickly, Jim Crow reared its ugly head in the south and the terrorist acts of the Klan quickly turned their dream into a 19th century Wes Craven-like nightmare snatching away the very thought of real independence and freedom. For some, we are still learning this story because it was not a unit taught in our high school American history class. Juneteenth reflects the hope and optimism of the last generation of our enslaved ancestors. A few decades before Juneteenth, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence expressed that all men were created equal, the enslaved knew that was a fallacy. Yes, the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors are rooted in the soil of this country, true equality is a luxury we are not privy to. Eighty-nine years of an ongoing struggle and fight for equality, from Independence Day in 1776 to Juneteenth in 1865, the battle for freedom continues in 2020. Black and brown people deserve to take part in every commemorative moment this country has to offer. We've been here from the beginning (1619, Jamestown Virginia), we built this country so let's celebrate.

History tells us the Founders did not concern themselves with the freedom of our forefathers and foremothers. A few of them struggled to deal with the peculiar institution of slavery, but the struggle wasn't moving enough for them to give up benefiting from free labor. We laid the railroad tracks, picked the cotton, worked the tobacco fields, cut down the sugar cane, we converted the indigo plant to dye, our bodies were sacrificed for medical experimentations and so much more. All labor delivered free of charge! No, Independence Day does not commemorate our freedom and

equality however, it does remind us that in 1776 our enslaved ancestors laid the foundation on which American stands today and we should recognize that fact. Not to mention the wealth we created for this country and the black community continues to suffer from an enormous wealth gap compared to whites. So celebrate both holidays. We've earned the right and then some. And if you dare go to a cookout this weekend just remember to wash your hands, wear your mask, and practice good social distancing. Stay safe!

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