For Release: June 17, 2011
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or or (703) 568-4727 or [email protected]
"Juneteenth" Emancipation Observance Marks Revival of Virtues and Values
Juneteenth Holiday Called a "Celebration of American Freedom"
Washington, D.C. - Black conservatives with the Project 21 leadership network urge people to use this year's observance of "Juneteenth" to restore the values and virtues of self-improvement, self-reliance and educational empowerment that are sometimes missing in many communities.
"Juneteenth is one of those rich holidays of feasting, dancing and tearful remembrance of how a dark yesterday gave way to the light of opportunity, progress and the rise of black genius across America," said Project 21 spokesman Lisa Fritsch. "As a Texas resident, I know how Juneteenth is likened to July 4th since -- on the actual Juneteenth in 1865 -- Texas slaves finally learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. I can understand how the joy of exercising this newfound independence and opportunity led to the later success of notable Texans such as Barbara Jordan, Ron Kirk and Earl Campbell. Should the motivation of these expectations make a comeback, we could see our community rise even higher."
Project 21 spokesman Jerome Hudson added: "Emancipation was a historic step forward in human progress. Juneteenth should remind America of the unfinished work of freeing our broken communities from the shackles of crime and our school systems from mediocrity, and it should be celebrated no matter the race you were born into."
Project 21 members Dr. Phillip N. Johnson and Stacy M. Swimp are organizing two days of activities in the Michigan cities of Southfield, Flint and Lansing this year to commemorate Juneteenth. Events include speeches by local public officials as well as business and religious leaders, a rally and a dinner. Details about their events can be found at www.FDFofMichigan.com/index.php/events/.
"For many years, black Americans have celebrated Juneteenth as an African-American cultural festival. This is a mistake. Juneteenth is rightly observed as a celebration of American freedom," said Project 21's Swimp. "Emancipation came about through a joint effort of Americans from all walks of life. Thus, as proud Americans, Juneteenth should encourage a continuum of self-reliance, excellence and achievement without bounds. Standards have been increasingly abandoned in distressed urban communities for too long."
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the June 19, 1865 arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas. The soldiers carried with them the news that the Civil War was over and that President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had abolished slavery two-and-a-half years earlier. This was a joyous surprise to blacks in the region, who were still in bondage due to the lack of communication.
The annual commemoration of this day became known as Juneteenth, and it quickly became a stabilizing as well as a motivating presence in the lives of black Americans in Texas who faced many uncertainties associated with their newly-acquired freedom. Over time, the observance spread from Texas to be recognized all across the United States.
Juneteenth is celebrated in many ways, but education and self-improvement are consistent themes at commemorative community gatherings and picnics. In 1980, Juneteenth became an official holiday in Texas. Currently, 39 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or observance.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives since 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).