Dear GLIDE Community,
At GLIDE, we sing, we dance, we laugh, and we celebrate together, with storytelling being vital for our recovery and empowerment. On Juneteenth, as families, especially Black families, come together, opportunities emerge to raise up stories of African American culture, voices, and community. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, gives space for the reverence of elders and spirituality. It provides time to reflect on the past, imagine the possibilities of the future, and elevate Black joy as an expression of affirmation, resistance, and renewal.
For millions of Black Americans, celebrations of July 4, 1776, have rung hollow with inauthentic commemorations of liberty, overlooking the hypocritical pillars of slavery and white supremacy in the founding of our democracy. Recognizing June 19, 1865, has a different resonance, as it marks the date when a Union army that included Black troops notified enslaved people of African descent of their freedom. This act of enforcement on behalf of Black people — two months after the surrender of the Confederacy and two years after the Emancipation Proclamation — reframes our national definition of liberty and what it means to Black Americans. Rather than consigning the lived experiences of the nation’s African diaspora to the margins of the country’s story of independence, Juneteenth centers them as part of an evolving narrative about the stonier path our nation has taken for freedom for all.
Juneteenth allows us to collectively reflect on the entirety of the Black experience, from reconstruction to the civil rights movement, to the era of mass incarceration, and Black Lives Matter. Some states, including California, are calling for reparations to address the ongoing legacy of slavery by examining remedies for systemic discrimination and restitution for the descendants of the enslaved. Even so, national opinion polls show strong opposition to compensating Black Americans for this national sin — despite recognition that the compounded effects of slavery and systemic racism persist. There are also continual challenges to accurate reporting about the historical impact of slavery. Legislation aimed at limiting the teaching of the 1619 Project and other textbooks that examine the effects of slavery on modern American life are attempts to erase critical aspects of Black history. Instead of expanding the view of American history, these efforts continue to marginalize the experiences of people of color.
GLIDE advocates for a greater understanding of how the roots of racial inequities in our country are woven through centuries of enslavement, Jim Crow laws, restrictive covenants, mass incarceration, and state-sanctioned violence. GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice leads pilgrimages to Alabama to learn about the history of racism and how it continues through systems of oppression, policies, and laws. Bringing diverse individuals from all walks of life together through innovative and transformative racial reconciliation programs is fostering common ground. Participants become allies in the struggle against racism and change agents in their institutions to help drive more progress towards equity and inclusion.
GLIDE enthusiastically encourages everyone to mark Juneteenth as we do by celebrating all who make up our community. Juneteenth isn’t just an African American holiday. It’s a national holiday for all to meditate on our collective journey toward liberty as Americans. Like the Ghanaian symbol of the Sankofa bird that looks back to see a way forward, Juneteenth provides an opportunity to reflect on where we have been as a country. And by doing so, we also move forward with an inclusive view of our collective history and a greater capacity to appreciate our freedoms more fully.