I Will Celebrate Juneteenth
Juneteenth is the celebration of the ending of slavery, whose official date is June 19th, 1865. If we agree that "all men are created equal" why wouldn't we join together to celebrate the death of one of the most abject institutions ever known to man? I will celebrate Juneteenth, and I hope Utah chooses to as well.
On June 19, 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas were notified, two years after Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, that they were free. June 19th, quickly became the day to celebrate the ending of slavery. Utah has celebrated Juneteenth formally for 18 years, and informally for much longer than that.
I admit, I hadn't heard much of Juneteenth until recently. But as I've learned what it stands for, I support it as a day of celebration. That's why it surprises me that some would simply dismiss the day that should be a poignant reminder to all of man's ability to be cruel to man, and that the United States was ultimately a leader in the drive to abolish slavery from the world.
This is what I just found out about it on Wikipedia:
Slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year. Across many parts of Texas, freed slaves pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities’ increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings—including Houston’s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin. Within a few years, these celebrations spread to other states and have become an annual tradition. Celebrations often open with praying and religious ceremonies, and include a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. A wide range of festivities entertain participants, from music and dancing to contests of physical strength and intellect. Baseball and other popular American games are played. Food is central to the celebrations, with barbecued meats being especially popular.
A couple of legislators were quoted recently as portraying what seems to me to be very cavalier attitudes regarding the celebration of Juneteenth, to me an indication that they haven't spent much time walking around in shoes other than their own.
"There's just so many of these types of things," said Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. "Why are we spending time on something like this when we've got some real issues?"My response: This is a real issue. I can think of a handful of holidays that would be as or more important to celebrate, but not many. Christmas indicates our love of life and giving. Thanksgiving shows our devotion to God and man for the blessings of life. Independence Day shows our gratitude for individual freedom of choice. And I don't think it presumptuous to support Juneteenth as an indication that America ultimately recognized that freedom of choice transcends the color of one's skin.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said too many commemorations or holidays could water down the meaning of existing ones.
"I think we have plenty [of holidays]," Ray said. "The more we put (into code), the less meaning they really have."
The most controversial issue related to the founding of the United States of America was slavery. Careful compromises ensured that--although it would not be abolished immediately--slavery would eventually be wiped out in the land founded squarely on the premise that all members of mankind are created equal. The first compromise was the limitation of the importation of slaves after the year 1808. The second was the often-misunderstood "Three-fifths clause", which was actually a compromise that had the effect of giving less representation in the US House of Representatives to the slave-holding states.
Ultimately (and perhaps ironically), these Constitutional compromises brought about the end of slavery, in much swifter fashion than otherwise would have occurred. One of the greatest accomplishments of these United States was to reject slavery. It took us a while, but the United States finally made good on the promise of the vision of the Declaration of Independence. That is something to celebrate.