Across the country, Black people are basking in the joy of the Juneteenth holiday. Long before it was granted Federal holiday status, Juneteenth offered an opportunity for Black people to celebrate their freedom and self-determination.
With the grant of federal recognition, it’s important to remember that this is a moment to celebrate with purpose. Juneteenth is also a time to honor, reflect and recommit to Black liberation. In an interview with NewsOne, Black Voters Matter Fund’s Texas State Organizing Manager Dionna La’Fay Hardin encouraged people to remember that Juneteenth is specifically about Black people and Black liberation.
“I want us to remember that this is about Blackness coming into its own in a new light,” she explained. “And it’s also about understanding that there are gaps in the system that prevent new mandates and change from really being implemented immediately.”
Hardin told NewsOne that the weekend also offered opportunities for people to recharge and bask in the beauty of Black joy and love.
“Having these moments of joy does help preserve the hope that we have and reach that next level of freedom for our generation,” Hardin said. “We understand the role that Black love and Black joy play in fortifying our spirits because you need hope to keep pressing forward.”
Joy and love for Black people fuels Black Voters Matter’s coalition organizing with groups across the state. Hardin highlighted several events, including Opal’s Walk for Freedom and a Juneteenth celebration in Brazoria County led by the Pearland Martin Luther King Celebration Committee. Rep. Al Green was expected to attend the Pearland event.
Saturday also marked the beginning of Black Voters Matter’s Freedom Summer Tour, with a warrant clinic in Alexandria, Louisiana. Black Voters Matter Fund will hold a virtual teach-in focusing on the legacy of Juneteenth and its connection to the criminalization of Black people Tuesday, June 21, at 6 p.m. ET.
Celebrating Black liberation amid white supremacist attacks is not new
As many celebrate the second annual Juneteenth federal holiday, a Congressional committee examines the white supremacist attack on the Capitol. The backlash and growing fear of a diversifying political electorate are not new. White supremacy has always been threatened by Black political participation and multiracial coalition-building.
Center for Popular Democracy Co-Executive Directors DaMareo Cooper and Analilia Mejia see Juneteenth as a time to reflect on the importance of Black liberation as a pathway for a true Democracy. As a network of grassroots organizations in 200 cities and 38 states, the Center for Popular Democracy works to support Black-led organizing and building of a multiracial democracy.
“This Juneteenth, we cannot overemphasize the critical importance of resisting and defeating the forces working diligently to take control of the levers of government that protect the freedoms we have as Black Americans,” read the statement. “To stay free and build power for our next generation, we must actively build the democracy Juneteenth promised — one where all our communities can thrive and live with dignity.”
Cooper told NewsOne, that there was a parallel between the open defiance of those treating the January 6 attack as acceptable political discourse and the period after Reconstruction. Cooper said the number of Black elected officials who took office during Reconstruction is evidence of the success of progress through a multiracial Democracy.
“Our future as a nation is in peril,” Cooper said. “There was a time when we were building a multiracial democracy, and we were successful.”
Fighting for the next round of freedom
Honoring the history and determination of Black people from enslavement through the present includes an inherent commitment to fighting for equity and justice. Despite alleged progress, Black communities and families continue to struggle economically, socially and politically. It’s not just about electing more representative leadership who look like us, but people who will fight for us and with us.
“This next round of freedom has to come with universal basic income, it has to come with affordable access to housing, it has to come with adequate health care,” Hardin explained. “That is the next level of freedom we’re fighting for because we understand what we didn’t gain last time.”
And part of fighting for the next round of freedom is building a multiracial democracy that works for all people and not a select few. Cooper says that requires dismantling systems that uphold racial capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and other barriers to meaningful racial justice.
“We consider ourselves a network of organizers, and part of our role is to help people understand and contextualize the moment we are in,” Cooper said. “There’s no Black liberation absent of the political process…We are liberation.”