By Ron Swain
Convener, Courageous Conversations of Georgetown
Since moving to Texas 20 years ago, I have learned about Juneteenth. Born in Georgia and learning there the history of American slavery, the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation – January 1, 1863 – I did not know about June 19, 1865 (known as Juneteenth). As I have come to know more about this day and its significance in Texas, I too, celebrate Juneteenth – African American Independence Day. It is a day to acknowledge and celebrate freedom from slavery in America.
While physical slavery was abolished, I am sad to say that the deeply embedded mental, emotional and spiritual slavery continues for many persons in our nation even today. This mental, emotional and spiritual slavery historically has been maintained and sustained through public policies and practices at the local, state and national levels. In effect, these policies perpetuate racism.
Consider the housing policies that segregated African Americans into areas of cities and towns that were dumping grounds for garbage and sites of industrial smoke stacks that created unhealthy living conditions for these residents. As a consequence of the housing policies, the segregated public schools for African Americans, were likewise poorly constructed and educational materials were handed down from the white schools on the other side of town.
The recently popular film, “The Best of Enemies,” illustrates the impact of the segregated schools and the movement to desegregate the public schools in Durham, North Carolina in 1971.
Today, although public schools are legally desegregated, there seem to be policies and practices, including unconscious bias in our schools by some teachers and some administrators; and bullying by some students, that prevent some students, especially students of color, from achieving their full, positive potential. Institutional racism remains the prevailing obstacle to creating the “Beloved Community.”
Thus, the struggle for freedom continues.
As we celebrate Juneteenth 2019, I encourage all of us to work towards the full mental, emotional and spiritual liberation of those descendants of African American men and women who were freed from physical slavery on June 19, 1865. And, I invite you to join us to work to end the oppression of all marginalized communities so that we all may enjoy the fruits of freedom.