Juneteenth: a Celebration of Black Resilience, Independence, and Community

Juneteenth Background and How to Celebrate

This coming Wednesday is June 19th, or Juneteenth: a celebration of Black resilience, independence, and community. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston Bay, TX received the news of the Emancipation Proclamation, over two years after it was initially announced on January 1st, 1863. Although Juneteenth was only recently recognized as a federal holiday, Black communities across the nation have celebrated it for decades. Here are a few ways you can celebrate the holiday this year.

Celebration through History

This year, we celebrate Juneteenth by learning and sharing the rich Black history of our state. 

In 1865, Henry Tupper established the first historically Black institution of higher education in the south and one of the oldest in the nation: Shaw University. Institutions like these–also known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s)– “outperform non-HBCU institutions in retaining and graduating first-generation, low-income African American students.” Additionally, while HBCU’s only make up 3% of US colleges and universities, they account for 20% of the nation’s African American graduates. 

PCB Protests led by the Black community in Warren County NC mark the beginning of the environmental justice movement in the U.S. Just over 40 years ago, NC’s government shipped 40,000 cubic yards of toxic, cancer-causing soil into a majority Black and low income community. But members of this farming town stood up for their rights. They marched and they laid in the streets in front of the dump trucks to protest. Over 500 people were arrested, and though the soil was ultimately still dumped in their community, it sparked a movement for justice. While global communities have been fighting environmental injustices for centuries, these protests truly defined the environmental justice movement in the US.

Celebration through Advocacy

159 years after the first Juneteenth, Black communities still face systemic, racial discrimination. Last year, far-right lawmakers passed gerrymandered maps which disenfranchised Black voters in various counties across North Carolina. The NC Chapter of NAACP, Common Cause, and individual Black plaintiffs, have challenged these maps on racial discrimination grounds. Additionally, the NC Republican lawmakers passed legislation further restricting voting access, which will negatively impact marginalized communities, especially Black communities; communities which have fought against voter suppression for decades in North Carolina.

Celebration through Reflection

We invite you to read the articles we have shared above and reflect on our history. We also invite you to reflect on what we can continue to build. How can we protect Black communities across our state from poisoned water and air? How can we stand against voter disenfranchisement and suppression? Feel free to share your thoughts with us by emailing members@nclcv.org

Happy Juneteenth!

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