Voices from our Community - A Juneteenth Like No Other

Juneteenth is celebrated in remembrance of June 19, 1865, the day that slaves in Galveston, Texas first learned from Union soldiers that they were free. This news came two years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It is no coincidence that President Trump chose Juneteenth to schedule his first political rally since March of this year. And it isn’t by chance that he chose Tulsa, Oklahoma, site of one of the most violent massacres of Blacks in American history. In 1921, from May 31 to June 1, incited by rumors of an encounter between a Black man and a white woman, white mobs looted, burned, and shot from private planes to destroy the prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood, known as Black Wall Street, murdering and injuring more than 1,000 and leaving 10,000 homeless. No punishment or reparations were ever made, and this white violence was conveniently “forgotten” in the teaching of US history. Only this year, 99 years after the fact, did the massacre become part of the Oklahoma school curriculum. Amnesia is the enemy of social change.

On Juneteenth, Blacks in the US usually gather family and friends for bountiful picnics, with red-colored foods and kola nuts symbolizing Africa and the slave trade. We have always leaned into joy as a means of surviving the ceaseless trauma inflicted upon us. In this summer of resistance that we are currently living through, we’d like to invite all of you to take at least nine minutes to reflect on the individual lives lost to racial violence. Say their names aloud. George Floyd’s name has become known around the world, but take those minutes to think of the many others who are less well-known, including those killed by police in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe. We cannot forget them, the way that countless Black victims of racial violence have been forgotten in the US.

President Trump may have caved in to pressure and changed the date of his Tulsa rally to June 20th. However, he also has said that he will accept his Republican Party's nomination to run again for President on another bleak day in Black American history, in yet another city that saw death and violence - Jacksonville, Florida, on August 27th, Ax Handle Saturday.  Sixty years ago on that day, a group of over 200 white men violently attacked, with ax handles and baseball bats, a group of Black protesters who had gathered peacefully to stand against racial segregation. The attackers were never arrested. The protesters were.

This Juneteenth, we urge all US citizens living in Belgium, regardless of their political persuasion, to register to vote on www.VoteFromAbroad.org. The US has never had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to face the reality of centuries mired in slavery and genocide. Is it any wonder that in 2020, lawmakers are actually “debating" anti-chokehold and anti-lynching laws? Let’s make this Juneteenth a day of remembrance, an act of resistance we can all participate in, wherever we are.

On behalf of the Voices from our Community,
Pauline Manos - Chair, Democrats Abroad Belgium