At the “Juneteenth Lunch and Learn” last Tuesday, Delbert Richardson, the guest speaker, was asked, “how can someone who is not African American participate in Juneteenth?” I loved his response. He challenged us to both acknowledge it and educate ourselves. I am working to do both!
Part of my effort includes “reading” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Leadership for Turbulent Times” (Actually, I am listening to it on Audible, while I read another powerful book!).
Kearns Goodwin looks at four U.S. presidents confronting extreme challenges and how they responded. One is Abraham Lincoln and his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, freeing the slaves in the states in rebellion.
A few points stood out powerfully to me. First, Lincoln believed it was right and necessary for the country – to the point where he listened to but ignored the objections of his Cabinet – and their objections were strong. Some advocated it would be the death of the Union that they were fighting to preserve. Lincoln’s conviction was so strong he persevered in the face of this opposition. Second, he included the language “forever free” to ensure it would not be revoked once the war was over. Finally, he knew as president he did not have the legal authority to issue the proclamation but relied on his broader powers as Commander-in-Chief during wartime.
While “Juneteenth” (also known as “Freedom Day”) recognizes the freeing of the final slaves in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation is viewed as the first step of eradicating slavery in our country. But it is important to remember that it took over two years and a constitutional amendment to make it a reality (the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed on January 31, 1865).
Delbert’s comments and answers to questions were insightful and challenging. He shared some of the material from his American History Traveling Museum (unspokentruths.org), including showing us actual shackles that were used on slaves – sized for men and children. And he encouraged all of us to “grow in our own humanity” in how we see and treat one another.
If you didn’t get a chance to join us for this week’s Lunch and Learn, you can watch the presentation here.
While the Legislature took the action recognizing Juneteenth this year, the effective date of the law is July 25, 2021, so it will not be a legal state holiday until next year. But Delbert’s advice is still good this year – we should acknowledge the slavery in our past and learn more about it and its consequences for our country.
To learn more about Juneteenth, check out these local resources:
Starting at noon June 19, the second annual “Still We Rise” Juneteenth celebration will be held at Wright Park with food trucks, vendors, DJs, live music, local talent, games and guest speakers.
The Royal Masquerade Juneteenth Gala, hosted by Legally BLACK: will be held this Saturday from 6:15-9 p.m. at the Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave, Tacoma. General admission is $45. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com.
Also this Saturday, a Juneteenth Celebration at Ray Gibson’s Cabelleros Club starts at 8 p.m. and lasts to 12 a.m., 1516 S. 28th St., Tacoma.
You can also celebrate Freedom Day with a special limited-edition program kit from Tacoma Public Library. The kit will feature the supplies needed to make your own Juneteenth sign for display. This program kit will be available, while supplies last, during TPL To Go hours at all branches on June 19 only. Program kits are a fun way to bring the Library’s arts and crafts activities home with you. Get more info here.
The Tacoma Library will be on Zoom for a special Juneteenth Family Storytime on June 19 from 3-3:30 p.m. They’ll read books written by Black authors that celebrate the modern Black experience. Get more info and register here.
Washington State Historical Society encourages you to join in celebrating with one of their many partners who preserve the history of Black Americans and Washingtonians, including:
The Black Heritage Society of Washington State
The Buffalo Soldiers Museum (located in Tacoma!)
Northwest African American Museum
Thanks for reading, and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads,