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Tales from Utah Valley: Honor Juneteenth all year

By Laura Giles - Herald Correspondent | Jun 25, 2022

Ivana Martinez, KUER via AP

In this 2020 photo, Salt Lake City Juneteenth organizers dance in Washington Square Park during celebrations in Salt Lake City.

Juneteenth has come and gone this year, but there are ways that we can keep the spirit of Juneteenth alive year-round. While this day has been celebrated by many for years with family get-togethers, parties and parades, a lot of us, including myself, didn’t know much about it until it became a federal holiday last year.

On June 19, 1865, freedom finally came to some 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state of Texas when 2,000 union troops arrived in Galveston Bay to announce that all slaves were free, by executive decree. Two years earlier, all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared legally free when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. That June day came to be known as Juneteenth by the newly freed people in Texas, according to The National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Independence Day, which comes around every July 4, commemorates the Declaration of Independence and symbolizes the freedom, joy and hope of the early colonists. Similarly, Juneteenth symbolizes the freedom, joy and hope of the newly-freed slaves.

Education

Learning about the history of the day, and the history of slavery, is one way we can continue to honor Juneteenth all year. What did people have to go through to gain and maintain the freedoms that so many of us take for granted today? Educating ourselves and our families is a way to honor those who didn’t get to experience that freedom. Some sites to check out are http://Juneteenth.com, http://nmaahc.si.edu, and http://history.com.

Books are a fun and interesting way to learn about Juneteenth and our country’s history. This is another way to educate ourselves and our children. Check out your local library’s list of books that would be good for learning more about Juneteenth and the events that preceded it. Some excellent children’s books include “Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free” by Alice Faye Duncan, “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson and “Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem” by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle.

Symbol of Hope

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

People demonstrate during a march in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 that enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed from bondage, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Keeping the spirit of Juneteenth in our hearts and minds all year can help us have hope. While we won’t experience the horrors of slavery, there are other hardships and tragedies that will occur in all of our lives. Remembering past events such as Juneteenth can remind us that there is hope — hope for the future, hope for better times, hope for dreams to be realized.

Kindness

Juneteenth represents a time of healing. What better way to honor such a day and time in our history than being kind to each other? Many people commemorate Juneteenth each year by performing acts of kindness. This is something that we can continue to do all year, as a way to keep the spirit of Juneteenth alive, treating others with fairness, respect and kindness.

As poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “My hope is that we develop enough courage to develop courage. To try to have, try to learn to treat each other fairly, with generosity and kindness.”

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