We won’t pretend that harm to Black Americans stopped on June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth – the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. In the past year, everyone has experienced how much work there is left to do. The many protests and the struggles we’ve been through have left us a bit weary. But they have also left us encouraged, as we work toward a world that is more free. A world where we are empowered to face the harm we cause and heal from the harm we experience.
It’s interesting to note that Juneteenth doesn’t mark the signing of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which technically freed slaves in the rebelling Confederate states. Nor does it commemorate the December 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment, which enshrined the end of slavery into the Constitution. Instead, it marks the moment when emancipation finally reached Black people in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy, which happened to be in Galveston, Texas. On June 19, 1865, federal troops finally arrived to enforce the law – two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring Black people in confederate states “thenceforward, and forever free.” And we know that racial segregation and injustice continued long after that.
In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for Black people. This is true has been true in higher education, income equality, healthcare access, recognition of substance use, mental health, and HIV/AIDS risks in the Black community, as well as in rates of home ownership, the greatest form of wealth most people will have. The world is slowly changing. As a nation, we are starting to understand that Black people are one of America’s greatest assets. Inherent Black strength, resilience, and spirit cannot be extinguished — inequity fans the flames of truth to burn brighter. Here at L.A CADA, we are proud allies of the Black community in Los Angeles County. Moreover, we are especially proud of our Black clients and staff who lead the way to behavioral health equity. Have a happy and proud Juneteenth!
Learn more: 15 Black Documentaries to Screen for Juneteenth