Happy Juneteenth — enjoy it while you can
Juneteenth — celebrated on June 19 as a federal holiday in the USA since 2021 — commemorates the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas were finally emancipated, some two years after President Abraham Lincoln had already declared slavery at an end on New Year’s Day 1863.
Slave owners in Texas, therefore, benefited from an extra two and a half years of free labour at the expense of people of colour.
I am ashamed to admit that until it was declared a federal holiday two years ago, I had never even heard of Juneteenth. And it was only a few years prior that I had first learnt about Black Wall Street and the Tulsa massacre in Oklahoma.
While I have always been incredibly proud of the undoubtedly exceptional education I received at the finest high school in Jamaica located at National Heroes’ Circle (Age Quod Agis forever) and the venerable The University of The West Indies, I do confess that I had started to wonder whether someone at Jamaica’s education ministry might have dropped the ball.
Until I learnt that there were literally millions of Americans, African Americans included, who had been born, raised, and educated in these United States who had similarly been left in the dark — pun definitely intended — as I was.
We are living in strange times. There are currently candidates running for this nation’s highest office declaring Juneteenth a “woke” holiday and indicating that they would like to see it unobserved or abolished completely.
Others have stated their intention to rename military bases after racist, traitorous generals who fought and lost the Civil War while attempting to preserve slavery. Books about parts of history that Caucasian Americans and their children find uncomfortable are being pulled from library shelves to ease their pain. It’s perhaps better to read it than to have lived it. But, hey, maybe that’s just me.
Meanwhile, a former president seeking re-election is campaigning on the promise to pardon the imprisoned, mostly Caucasian insurrectionists who stormed the nation’s capital to overturn an election he clearly lost.
The masks (and hoods?) are off. They have shown us who they are, Queen Maya Angelou. Roe v Wade was first. Juneteenth may be next. So let’s enjoy it while we can. After all, nothing is forever, right?
David Heron is a Jamaican actor and playwright