Voices    City

#Voices: Juneteenth

SC State House
SC State House | Photo via @the_wandering_jones

By: Ms. Elána R. Frazier is passionate about initiatives that promote innovation, equity, and inclusion. She has called Columbia home for three years + currently serves as the president of the Columbia Urban League Young Professionals.

This is a contributor-submitted Voices piece. Want to join the conversation? We invite you to write for us. Learn how to share your voice here.

 

Juneteenth, the inauguration of physical independence for our ancestors in America. Juneteenth, a celebration that began with freed slaves in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth, ever so important in 2020 as it was in 1865. A historic event, named by combining “June” and “nineteenth”, signifies the liberation of the remaining enslaved Africans after the Civil War on June 19, 1865, more than two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

A celebration of African American freedom, achievement, continuous self-development and respect for all cultures, Juneteenth is a global symbol of pride with roots originating from fertile soil, the Motherland, Africa. A commitment to respect and appreciate the African American culture across the globe, this observance not only commemorates our freedom, but it also allows us to self-assess, placing emphasis on education, achievement and planning for the future. Understanding and appreciating the African Diaspora and allowing those crossroads to intersect our commonalities is incredible. In celebration of our culture, we acknowledge our history of perseverance and strength, even after being stolen from our homeland and separated from our loved ones, while continually building bridges of progressive change within our community. 

We are trailblazers, inventors, innovators and influencers. It speaks beyond just Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Black History Month and Kwanzaa. Juneteenth is a national day of pride; it creates new relationships and an understanding of the African American heritage amongst diverse communities. 

Through the decades, the energy of Juneteenth has only grown despite constant cultural appropriation. This is the time to bring awareness to and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and how it heavily influenced and shaped America’s hip-hop and pop-culture that we know today. Excuse us as we reclaim our identity, our blackness and take ownership of what was once stolen from our African ancestors over 400 years ago; unlearning a false history that has been taught through the education system; reversing the false narrative that has been projected onto our men and families through systemic racism; and burying any misconceptions about our influence in American history. This moment allows us to collectively reset ourselves and reconnect with our history. Discard any lingering doubt about our royalty. It is a privilege to be black and to know that our roots stem from such a deep-seated and rich foundation.

This year, Juneteenth has extra symbolism and meaning, and it has a positive future in South Carolina. Allow me to explain, for far too long there has been little regard to black lives. Juneteenth is a day for you to tune-in, hear, realize, and absorb social inequities that the black community has faced for centuries. It is not a day to vacation but to educate yourself and begin to heal relationships through authentic human connections with individuals who don’t look like you. It is a day to listen and celebrate the black culture through the African American experience.

One hundred and fifty five years later, as we celebrate our black identity, freedom, legacy and invaluable contributions of African Americans in the United States, we want folks to know that our lives still do not matter in the eyes of our oppressors and we are fully committed to fighting for the eradication of bigotry, disparities and the war on the black community. During this digital age, there is no excuse for us to not share in the same beacon of freedom as our white counterparts. We will continue to strategically share actionable next steps that nurture the inclusion of all cultures. We will continue to push the envelope so that appreciation of the African American culture is always shared within our communities, around the state of South Carolina and across the globe.

In the words of the late Whitney M. Young “This nation has always had the music of harmony, the song of equality, running about in its dreams. It never played that melody because it wanted to use only the white keys. It’s time for it to start using the full keyboard of human resources to bring peace, harmony, and justice to this bitter and divided land.”

June 19, 2020 is the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth. We invite you to learn about our traditions; understand our customs; respect our values; celebrate our existence.

Looking for ways to get involved locally? Check out the 4th annual Juneteenth Freedom Fest, the Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom at The Elegant Elephant (tomorrow, June 20) + Juneteenth Rock Hill (taking place virtually).