Juneteenth National Independance Day
On June 17, 2021, President Biden President Biden signed into law legislation declaring June 19th as a federal holiday to be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day. Long commemorated in the black community and in various regions of the United States, Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of Black American slaves. The decision to name Juneteenth as a federal holiday recognizes the importance of this day for millions of Black Americans and to the history of the United States.
Juneteenth is an opportunity for reflection and education on civil rights, inequities and the steps being taken to bring understanding and spark difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations regarding race, diversity and systemic racism still found in all parts of the country. It is also an occasion to recognize the significant contributions Black Americans have made throughout our history.
Juneteenth was first celebrated on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas. General Gordon Granger announced that the Civil War had ended and enslaved Black Americans were now free. While the Emancipation Proclamation became official in 1863, it was not until two years later that a full surrender to Union troops occurred and deliberate action was finally taken to free slaves.
Today, June 19, Juneteenth is celebrated across the country and symbolizes not only an end to slavery, but also enlightenment on injustices foisted upon Black Americans and the continued fight for equality and an end to systemic racism. Along with celebrating freedom, it is a day to continue the work of bringing the nation together, treating one another with respect and dignity and moving forward toward a future of prosperity for all.
Local Juneteenth activities and celebrations:
Learn more about Juneteenth from these resources:
Available through the Collingswood Public Library:
Juneteenth by Robin Nelson
Juneteenth: a novel by Ralph Ellison
All different now: Juneteenth, the first day of freedom by Angela Johnson
Emancipation Day celebration, June 19, 1900 held in "East Woods" on East 24th Street in Austin. Credit: Austin History Center.
January 18, 2021
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Remembering and honoring the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King talked about moral justice and challenged America to live up to its ideals. He wrote from a jail in Birmingham, marched over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, shared his dreams at the monument for the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, and was shot down outside a Memphis motel where he came to offer support to striking sanitation workers.
“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right,” Dr. King preached. It is why he lives on in all of us. He never shied away from doing what was right. Yet for all his rhetorical brilliance, his tireless energy, his charisma and credibility to lead a noble cause, he was also pragmatic, strategic, and disciplined. It was results that mattered, and he concluded that progress would only happen with a foundation of love.
I realize that may sound touchy-feely, but it isn’t. “Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism,” Dr. King said. “It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.” More importantly, it is a rejection of hatred, aggression, and retaliation as means to settle conflict.
We started the borough’s Collingswood Conversations in response to the injustices we saw and the yearning to do better. Outrage and sadness may have inspired us to act, but I really do believe that love, with a healthy mix of resolve, will drive away hate and help right the wrongs people face. This is an opinion formed from the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For many, Martin Luther King Day is a day off from work, but I would hope you would also consider it a day to turn your attention to issues of social and economic justice and to do so with love in your heart. As Dr. King implored us “let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
He wasn’t being idealistic when he said that; he was being pragmatic.
May you have a safe, enjoyable, and meaningful MLK Day.