Today is Juneteenth. It's the second Juneteenth I've been aware of, even though it's been a thing since 1865.
As I learned about it just last year, when the country announced it as a federal holiday, and in fits and starts since, I'm sure I'll get a lot wrong. I'm coming a this from a point of reflection and observation, and not one of authority. So, please forgive anything I get wrong. I blame the simplified, maybe boring, and probably heavily filtered stories and lessons of the history classes of my youth. Maybe we heard of Juneteenth in school, but if we did, it passed through the ears like so many other things at the time. From what I've found while searching for a thing before writing this, I don't think that's the case.
What I've come to understand since is that slaves held in confederate states were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the actual freeing of slaves was evidently left to the states and owners to announce. Certainly, given the technology, this would take some time. There were probably considerations of how to disseminate the information, house and employ, or otherwise feed and take care of the freed. Maybe this went through committees and conferences. Of course, there was reluctance, and probably outright refusal on the parts of owners and communities of all sizes, up to and including states.
On 19 June, 1865, the US Army made the announcement in Galveston, Texas, which was the last state to free their slaves.
According to the Smithsonian, this is "our country's second Independence Day." The same article calls out how it's still relatively unknown to most Americans, which I'm sure will change with the coming years. But some this is a causing discontent that I was reading about over the weekend. Not that it's something we don't know about, but how it's becoming known about.
Commercialization has taken over and it isn't being done well, and in some cases really missing out any due care or respect. Juneteenth-branded wares were being advertised, and then "cancelled," and then apologized for. Flavors of ice cream, clothes and flags and banners, and tags in advertising set off a bevy of stories that filled my news feed. Many were not happy.
One scathing article I read (but can't find again) called out the misappropriation of this revered day. A completely different spin than the previous "now everyone is free" recognition that I think had been shared. If the Fourth of July Independence Day is about celebrating America's claim of freedom from British rule, it seems Juneteenth can be a celebration of the independence of the rest of the Americans not freed the first time. Maybe that's the guilt-ridden attempt of an new administration trying to gain good standing in a wildly unsettled and uncomfortable time. That was the gist of the article, anyway. The article discussed how this has been a Black community holiday pretty much ever since. That the rest of America didn't know about it was evidence of the continuing Black systemic racism and oppression.
The article was a little angry and dark, and I really do wish I could find it again. While looking for it, I did find some others, most a little less passionate, or at least less angry. I'm not sure what any moderator or observation algorithm might find as I try to search for "not white" or "Black only" holiday, which were sentiments if not phrases in the article I'm trying to find. I'm sure there's some algorithm steering me away from the seething bits, or maybe it just didn't score high enough in search optimization, even though it ranked high enough to hit the news feed.
(And why can't I look back at yesterday's news? This seems like an opportunity...)
A less divisive, more growth-oriented message is in the Wayside Youth blog post from 2020, before the national holiday was declared. This one comes from a "see and hear" direction, and not a "hands off our holiday."
Most of the others I see, especially as I try to look through the lens of the tone of the other article, could be perceived as attempts to appropriate a holiday, or blur its previous meaning. There are plenty, still, pointing out that even though it's been declared a national holiday and has a White House Proclamation of celebration this year, many states, communities, or companies still aren't recognizing it.
I'm going to keep looking for that article, and add it here if I find it. When I thought to tap it out, so I'd remember or you'd stumble upon it, I figured it'd be easy to find in my news reader history.