Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Going all the way back to 1865, June 19th was the day the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that all those enslaved were now free. This announcement came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was signed and ended slavery in the United States - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865 and the arrival of General Granger’s army, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
There are many stories on why the news arrived so late in Texas, with the main one being of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another story is the news was deliberately withheld by the Slave Masters to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that Federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Regardless, the sad part is that Texans remained enslaved until the news arrived on June 19, 1865.
One of the things often forgotten is that in the fields working side-by-side were both straight and gay men and lesbian women; those who loved silently and openly. There are some who want to believe "homosexuality" just popped onto the scene as if it was something in the water, without recognizing who and what we are as same gender loving men and women goes far back beyond slavery. We were not only on the slave ships, but we were also in the Dynasties and Kingdoms that ruled Africa in the Shaka Zulu, Cleopatra and Mansa Musa era. We have to tell our story and be clear about not allowing conversations around Black History to erase or neglect to include our history.
The 2017 Dallas Southern Pride Juneteenth Festival will bring together brothers, sisters and transgender individuals to celebrate our freedom, not only from slavery but oppression from within our communities including churches and all those institutions that would rather wish our existence away. It takes all of us to see that the village is large and access the strength that lies within each and every one of us.
We have to liberate ourselves from actions, words and deeds that would do us harm as a community. We have to reach down and grab the genius from within, it is in every brother, and sister and transgender person we see. Because they were born makes them worthy of human kindness and compassion. Let us not abandon the kindness and gentleness for the small-minded or those who use hurtful words. We must take the high road and reach for the energy and power left to us by our ancestors.
Can you imagine? We are the descendants of the strongest slaves that touched North American soil, and we cannot allow hate, HIV/AIDS, obesity, racism, sexism or any other form of disease or act to end our existence and cut us short from the journey we are upon. Join us June 15-18, 2017 to not only share in learning history with your brothers and sisters, but making history as well.