By Adrienne Jackson.
On Saturday, June 19th, 2021, we celebrated Juneteenth in Bryan County as a community for the first time. Led by the Bryan County NAACP Young Adult Committee, the event featured 28 vendors, two food trucks, a DJ, artists, and speakers from the community and surrounding areas.
This Juneteenth was historic for many reasons. This year marked the 156th anniversary of when the enslaved in Texas and southern territories learned of their liberation on June 19th, 1865. Their freedom came after almost two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Despite Juneteenth being our nation’s second Emancipation Day, so many in our country and even our community are just learning about this vital part of American history.
There is an African word from the Akan called “Sankofa.” Sankofa means to progress; one must go back to the past and return to what is forgotten, lost, and taken away and then retrieve it, build upon it and move forward. Celebrating Juneteenth was an opportunity for all to embrace and harness the power of Sankofa.
Perhaps what made this Juneteenth celebration even more significant is for the first time in our nation, in bipartisan efforts, passed a bill to make Juneteenth a federally observed holiday. Many will also argue that doing this is merely symbolic and does not address the systemic racism problems in our society.
Although this does not address or heal the problems in our society due to systemic racism, this small victory is a step in the right direction and is worth celebrating. A 94-year-old African American woman named Opal Lee, at the age of 86, walked from Fort Worth, Texas, to our nation’s capital and dedicated her life to activism to make Juneteenth nationally recognized. This marked the first time in over 40 years that a new national holiday was created: the last being Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
Before learning that Juneteenth would be a nationally recognized holiday, our committee had already begun planning our inaugural Juneteenth Freedom Day celebration. For us, this weekend was more than just a coincidence and more significant than the stars merely aligning. This historical celebration of Juneteenth was a long time coming and predestined.
This Juneteenth in the African American community, we reclaimed, revived, and preserved a significant moment in our history. However, this celebration of freedom, culture, hope, and community was for all of Bryan County. Celebrating Juneteenth is not just for African Americans. Juneteenth is American History.
There is a freedom and lesson in celebrating Juneteenth for us all.
Sankofa. Return & Get it. We did.
Adrienne Jackson is the young adult chair for the Bryan County NAACP.