Juneteenth: A day of joy and pain – and now nationwide action
IN JUST about any other year, Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 that the last enslaved black people learned that they had been freed from bondage, would be marked by African American families across the nation with a cookout, a parade, a community festival, and a soulful rendition of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.
But in 2020, as the coronavirus ravishes black America disproportionately, as economic uncertainty wrought by the pandemic strains black pocketbooks, and as police brutality continues to devastate black families, Juneteenth is a day of protest.
Red velvet cake, barbecued ribs, and fruit punch are optional.
For many white Americans, recent protests over police brutality have driven their awareness of Juneteenth’s significance.
“This is one of the first times since the ’60s, where the global demand, the inter-generational demand, the multiracial demand is for systemic change,” said Cornell University professor Noliwe Rooks, a segregation expert. “There is some understanding and acknowledgement at this point that there’s something in the DNA of the country that has to be undone.”
Today’s celebrations will be marked from coast to coast with marches and demonstrations of civil disobedience, along with expressions of black joy in spite of an especially traumatic time for the nation. And like the nationwide protests that followed the police-involved deaths of black men and women in Minnesota, Kentucky, and Georgia, Juneteenth celebrations are likely to be remarkably more multiracial.