The images are too horrific to bear, but I must look and I must experience the fear, and I must imagine the screams of the babies being torn from their mother’s arms. I must remember the stolen souls that lie chained within the hulls of ships that carried them to death and destruction. I must remember, for if I forget, I will fail to understand the many reasons why even now after 400 years, America still does not love me.Written by Tamara O. Barrett
Genocide is defined as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. American slavery was genocide. Why do the history books choose not to label this era of doom as an act of genocide? Because to do so would mean that America, our grand nation, would have to acknowledge that our leaders knowingly committed and allowed heinous atrocities to occur to Black People for monetary and selfish gain, and they did so with impunity.
With the impending promise of freedom, many freed and enslaved Black People gathered in their churches on the eve of January 1, 1863 to await the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. They gathered in anticipation to finally become free. However, slavery did not “effectively end” until over two years later when Texas, the last state to hold slaves, received word that slavery had been abolished. That day was June 19, 1865, known as Juneteenth (may also be referred to as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.) While I cannot be certain of this, I am sure there were no nationwide commemorative parades or celebratory firework shows to mark the end of slavery, of this era of genocide.
Black History is American History
For years, I celebrated Independence Day not fully understanding the burden of Black People. I had to learn about Juneteenth on my own. I can’t remember my family ever celebrating Juneteenth, and I know that none of my high school or even college history classes acknowledged its existence. Sadly, I was 42 years old when I became conscious and realized that America’s history did not include mine, and I was outraged.
I have always loved Frederick Douglass, so I took the time to reread his argumentative essay, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”, and I knew that I could no longer celebrate as I had celebrated in my years of slumber. I had to do something different. I began telling my friends about my plans to celebrate Juneteenth, and many of them asked me, “What’s Juneteenth?” Their lack of knowledge made me want to celebrate it even more.
A Delayed Celebration
Like most everything when it comes to the rights of Black People, there is a delay in the system(s). That is why it is my obligation to remember and to teach my children all of America’s History, a history that is more bad and ugly than it is good. For when it comes to the freedoms and issues that concern us, we have to be authors of our stories.
I celebrate Juneteenth for many reasons, but mainly because I am no longer angry, and because I know that the end of hundreds of years of bondage, the loss of culture and identity, and the stolen lives and dignity, are worth acknowledging and honoring, and I will do so whether America as a nation chooses to recognize it or not. I will do so because it is my obligation to make my children aware of all matters that concern their past, their present, and their future.
When I am no longer here, I want my children to know who I was. I tell my story here on the blog.XOXO, Tamara