Anybody else out there ever hear about Juneteenth?
It's a uniquely Texas holiday. Celebrated here every year especially in the black/African-American community.
Yesterday was Juneteenth, which is every June 19th of every year, here on the East side of Austin, Texas, where I live.
It's a day for parades, speeches and bar-q-que, lots and lots of bar-b-que. In this mainly black part of town it was really festive; cross over the Interstate Highway, replacing the more traditional railroad tracks, to the white part of town and you wouldn't even know June 19th was anything special at all. Just another day.
So what is being celebrated on Juneteenth in Texas?
Well, it seems that during the Civil War, President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in certain parts of the US, including Texas, sometime earlier in the year.
Being as Texas was a part of the Confederacy and also as communications were mighty slow back in those days, it wasn't until many months later, when Federal troops landed on Galveston Island on the Texas coast, that news of this decree became known in the Lone Star State.
So the slaves of Texas did not learn of their new found freedom until that day which happened to be June 19th. And now it is celebrated each and every day. The day people learned that they were free.
My neighbor lady across the street explained to me that she puts out her American flag for both Juneteenth and the Fourth of July both. One she said in honor of her ancestors and one in honor of her country.
I always think of how long it took for news of the freeing of the slaves to reach Texas. This place is still a bit behind the times in lots of similar ways to this day. Even you don't believe me, just ask the simpleton currently occupying the White House. He's way behind.
And I guess I also think about how people can be free, but not know it, until somebody comes along and tells them that they are. Then they can start feeling and acting like they are free people, even though they were really free long before that, they just didn't know it.
Same way with me I suppose. I am free to choose to be what and how I please. Only thing is, sometimes I forget that I know that until somebody lands their boat on my shore and lets me know.
Just in case no one has told you lately, you are free. The proclamation was made long ago. It has just taken a while to getting around to telling you.
It's good to be free.
I know you'll want to thank me for telling you, you're free.
But that's OK. There's always next year.
Better late than never,
Happy Juneteenth to you all from Texas.
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"
-Tony Joe White