July 3, 2011

Blacks celebrate ‘Juneteenth’ as their ‘Independence Day’


ONUMBA.COMThe celebration of the nation’s Independence Day on the 4th of July is only a couple of weeks away. 

In Columbus, it is called ‘Red, White and Boom.’ 

It is often attended by a mammoth crowd.  The downtown festivities are usually bunting with colorful parades, fireworks, patriotic songs and other jingoistic expressions of pride for the nation and gratitude for the ‘founding fathers’ who established it. 

But as the city eagerly awaits the celebration of the birth of the nation, one big Independence Day had already played out last week in the city at Franklin Park on Broad Street.  It is called ‘Juneteenth,’ in celebration of ‘June 19th’, which is the day African-Americans say they were actually freed from bondage. 

“It’s our emancipation,” Rhoda Abdul-Mateen told the Call & Post.  “It wasn’t the 4th of July.  It was Juneteenth, when they found out that supposedly slavery was over, and it came two years later.”

“So, this is our Independence Day,” she said. 

Abdul-Mateen was expressing the feelings of thousands of people, almost entirely African-Americans, who packed Franklin Park to be a part of a gathering that is widely considered the “Independence Day” for Black people.

The historical underpinnings for this event, which is celebrated in more than “200 cities” across the country, is noteworthy. 

Even though President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862, news of the declaration was suppressed in parts of the South, and because of that many slaves were not aware of it.  The consequence was that slaves in parts of Texas remained in their status of servitude two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them.

On the Juneteenth Ohio website, it stated that “June 19th, 1865 is considered the date when the last slaves in America were freed.”  That was the day those slaves became aware of their freedom. 

And that’s why Dorothy Greer, a native of Texas, is a true believer in the Juneteenth celebration.

“This day means freedom,” she told the Call & Post.  “It also means that we can have a reflection, a reflection as to how far we have come.”

Greer spoke of being close to the genesis of all of this.

“I am from Texas.  My father is a 100 years ago.  So, he has seen a lot.  So I have first hand history on how it used to be.  So, it’s very important.”

Jermain Scott also reflected on the importance of the day. 

“It means life, evolution, celebration,” said Scott, noting, “We have come a long way.” 

Black people, said Scott, “Went from chains to freedom, liberty, opportunity, and right now, here at the Juneteenth, we are just maximizing the opportunity, maximizing the moment,” he said. 

“It all comes together in one park to celebrate each other,” he said.

Alisa Mbinakar, a Columbus-based web designer, agreed.

“It means coming together to celebrate our African American history, all of us coming together as a community celebrating Juneteenth.”

Shawn Williams took the same view.

“It’s a celebration of us, a celebration of freedom.  That’s what it means.” 

The event featured plenty of vendors selling food, music CD’s, arts and African inspired jewelry.  Scores of LIVE bands played and music blasted all day as thousands of folks mingled having fun, eating and dancing, on a day that was almost ruined by rain.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.


Ike Mgbatogu

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus, Ohio. He can be reached by email at Onumbamedia@yahoo.com.

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