Dear mga Kasama,
Today we observe Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. Juneteenth is an annual holiday celebrated on June 19th in the United States that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and marks the date that their freedom was recognized in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865.
In 2021, Congress passed legislation that established June 19th as Juneteenth National Independence Day. Most recently, California Governor Newsom proclaimed Juneteenth as a state holiday for the first time, read the article here.
Few Filipina/x/o Americans (and Americans, for that matter) know that although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, that due to blatant defiance, resistance, and lack of enforcement it would take more than two years for his decree to reach all parts of the United States – most particularly in the Confederate states. In fact, Texas continued enslaving African Americans until Union Generals delivered General Order No. 3 in Galveston declaring freedom for all enslaved people.
Prior to any federal or state recognition, Juneteenth has long-been celebrated through various community events, including festivals, parades, and arts and cultural activities. While Juneteenth holds deep historical and cultural significance as a symbol of strength, liberation, and progress for African Americans, I would argue that it is our duty as Americans to find our own connection to the importance of today.
May we reflect upon the pain, harm, and struggles endured by enslaved African Americans, and further, use today as an opportunity to learn about the history of Black labor and uplift their contributions to the nation.