Juneteenth in All Its Glory

It’s a multi-faceted holiday. At the first official Culver City celebration of Juneteenth at the downtown plaza, the speakers at the event had multiple names for it; Freedom Day, Kingdom Day, the End of Slavery. The title of Juneteenth is a poetic junction of June 19th, the anniversary of the day that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas.

I was delighted to join in the celebration with the storytellers, the drummers and the amazing musicians that performed on Sunday, and I heard their take on things; on my own calendar, I think of it as Freedom of Accurate Information Day. Not nearly as easy on the ear as Juneteenth, but consider the history. 

People who had been legally enslaved were proclaimed to be free, but they had no way of knowing. Once the information reached them, lives changed. 

In the moment we live in now, where accurate information is constantly competing for space with both misinformation and its evil twin, disinformation, Juneteenth is a point of inflection. How can you exercise a right you don’t know that you have? How can you maintain your freedoms when so many are telling you that you they are already gone? 

One part of an information campaign that educated me a few years ago was the fact that if ICE  (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) knocks on your door, you have the right to keep that door closed. They do not have the right to come in without your permission. I did not know that I had that right. I do now. 

Most of us know, we have the right to remain silent. Thousands of police movies and television shows have repeated the Miranda so often, many of us can recite it as easily as the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Roll it all the way back to the Magna Carta, where a group of nobles decided to proclaim that the king did not have the right to hold himself above the law. There are still, it seems, people having trouble with this concept. Which is too bad; we have the right to hold our leaders accountable. 

It was great to see downtown Culver City filled with people dancing, talking, feasting, laughing. I hope the event continues on as an annual thing. 

The story of the Union troops coming to Texas to deliver the news is one that has many facets. I like the word ‘Juneteenth.’ I like what it stands for even more than that. 

Judith Martin-Straw

Photo Credit – Dr. Daniel Lee

The Actors' Gang

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