Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

The celebration of Juneteenth comes during a revolutionary time in America, where hundreds of thousands protestors are emphasizing the importance of Black Lives and fighting for equity and true freedom.  While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 technically freeing all slaves, it took two years on June 19, 1865, for the final slaves in Galveston, Texas to learn of their liberation. In 2020, 155 years later, the commemoration of liberty comes with a continued fight for justice; however despite inequities many leaders are emphasizing the need for celebration.

“Juneteenth, in my opinion, is the most significant day in African-American history,” said political organizer Carl Thomas, who is speaking at a Juneteenth rally at the African American Civil War Memorial in Northwest, D.C.”

As protestors fight against systemic racism, many activists are using Juneteenth 2020 as a chance to celebrate and mobilize for true freedom. (Courtesy Photo)

While some Blacks learned of their freedom in 1863, or in some cases, before, on June 19, the final declaration of true independence from White slave masters was delivered to the slaves in Galveston, and thus, the day is meaningful to African American history and liberation. 

“We know that date is when the very last human that was subjugated to being property was told that they no longer have to live that way.  Life for Black America changed that day as a whole,” Thomas explained.

For Thomas, who calls Juneteenth his favorite holiday, the importance of having an actual date in African-American history is what makes Juneteenth worth celebrating.

“The significance of that date is monumental mainly because our people were not the curators of the history books so everything that happened to us was approximated because it wasn’t us writing the history.  Everything that happened to them, because it was them, is exact, because they wrote the story, so it’s history not our story,” he said.  “So this idea of ‘American’ is born on July 4 [1776], the idea of African American is born on June 19 [1865], because that day we became a viable part of society- briefly,” Thomas, who happens to be born on July 4, added.

Long Live GoGo’s Alison Carney (liaison), Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson (founder) and Kelsye Adams (executive director) at a press conference about the Juneteenth Million Moe March. (Photo by Micha Green)

“ June 19 was the first time in American history, every Black person in America was free… I can’t think of another point in history that’s more significant.  We have given everything to this country,” Thomas said passionately.
Despite giving so much to America- from slavery, to inventions to popular culture- Blacks still face inequities, brutality and death due to White Americans and systemic racism.

As protestors fill streets nationwide and over the world, demanding just treatment of Black lives, many organizers, such as Thomas, or organizations like Long Live GoGo, are working to ensure people commemorate Juneteenth, while also galvanizing others to continue the fight for ultimate freedom and equity.

On June 19, Long Live GoGo will be hosting the “Million Moe March,” also being called, “The New March on Washington,” that will start at Black Lives Matter Plaza (near 16th and K Streets Northwest) and march to 14th and U Streets Northwest.  As is the fashion of Long Live GoGo, the organization behind “Moechella,” the march will include musical performances by GoGo bands TCB, TOB and UCB, as well as feature DJ Saysay and artist, organizer and Long Live GoGo Founder Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson.  

“It is very important that we celebrate Juneteenth because it is our true independence day, not a custom that was forced on us by our oppressors,” Johnson said. 

“We have plenty of speakers throughout the program. I’ll be intentionally mentioning and giving the history of Juneteenth and we have other platforms that we’re advocating for as well like demilitarizing the police, which, in our eyes, is redirecting our investments into the community. There are other initiatives too, like we want to see more Black millennials in office, and we want the community to have more of a fair shot- a true fair shot,” Johnson added. 

Executive Director Kelsye Adams explained how music is the rallying tool behind a larger purpose.

“It’s very important to use music because music is the root of the African- American culture.  We want to talk about 155 years, when slavery was ‘abolished’- even though we’re facing a lot of issues of slavery to this day- we still want to recognize that day of Juneteenth of African Americans, and actually put down fourth of July, which gives independence to the White people who are not giving us any freedom and still systematically oppressing us,” said Long Live GoGo Executive Director Kelsye Adams. “So it’s really integral that we start mobilizing on Juneteenth, and showing the country, African Americans we can do the same thing, we can start our businesses, we can join together, our lives matter, just as anyone else’s.” 

Artist and Long Live GoGo Liaison Alison “Ace Ono” Carney also emphasized the importance of music as it relates to the goals of mobilization and reform.

“If you want a movement to move people you have to find ways to do so.  And our community is a rich Black culture that is rooted in music- drums are at the heart of our being,” Carney said.  “So to think on any level that a musical movement would be surface, I get it I guess, but I would implore people to reach deeper.  There are people in this city who wouldn’t even know what policy reform meant unless you said it over a microphone at a place where they understood it.”

 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor