• Nicole Belvedere

Juneteenth vs the 4th of July

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

Over the past few weeks, there have been more conversations about uniting as a people. These conversations have been geared toward celebrating what is unique to our culture as African/Black Americans. Many on social media have even gone as a far to say that we should not be celebrating traditional American holidays such as Independence Day but rather embrace our Independence and only celebrate Juneteenth.

We all know and have learned in school that Independence Day in the United States is celebrated on July 4th each year. In fact, most people I know refer to this holiday by the date- not the official name. On this day we celebrate, the birth of our country and its independence from British rule. While that day in 1776 declared the freedom of the 13 colonies, the freedom of enslaved Africans was far off.

Almost 100 years later, Honest Abe decided he was ready to 'free' the slaves in the Confederacy and on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. It took over 2 years for slaves in the rural southernmost states to get the news. June 19, 1865 is the day we recognize as the Union's solders delivering that message in Texas (supposedly the last to find out).

Growing up, I don't remember learning about Juneteenth in school, on TV, or anywhere else. As a child I had an American Girl Doll. In the mid 90s, there were only five American Girl dolls and one was black - escaped slave Addy Walker. The dolls also had a series of books that told their stories. Her 3rd book alluded to a celebration of Juneteenth but never spelled it out directly. My first time hearing of this holiday was my freshman year of college and even then I wasn't taught about it.

Fast forward to 2020, the year of perfect vision, Juneteenth has been in the forefront of Black America. Following the protest and riots that took place in early June as a result of the ongoing police brutality and systematic oppression, so many companies were ready to embrace a day set aside for us. But what is beautiful is that so many of us, so many Black/African Americans were able to learn more about this holiday and celebrate something unique to ourselves. There were proclamations made that this our independence day; and we should not celebrate the 4th of July. I personally beg to differ.

Neither the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation truly freed us, but I deserve to celebrate both because my ancestors sacrificed for me to do so.

This country was built on the backs of those who could not speak for themselves so I will celebrate it's Independence in their honor. Juneteenth represented as shift in what was the norm. It gave hope to the masses of what was to come. While we are still in a fight for equality, the enslaved Africans of 1865 and before would be full of pride to see where we are today. I celebrate this day for me.

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