In observance of "Juneteenth," the oldest and most popular commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, members of the Project 21 black leadership network urge black Americans to go beyond just celebrating past achievements. Instead, black Americans are urged to break free of mental and emotional bonds that can restrict them from taking full advantage of the opportunities now available to them.
"Juneteenth is essentially the black Independence Day - recognizing our emancipation from slavery," said Project 21 member Adrian Norman. "And although we take time to look to the past when we recognize this day, it's important that we also acknowledge and appreciate the great distance we are from that sordid past and take greater steps toward bringing to our communities the fullness of the American Dream."
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the June 19, 1865 arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas. They brought with them news of the end of the Civil War two months earlier and President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery two-and-a-half years earlier.
Galveston's former slave population began celebrating its freedom on the anniversary of this day in an event called Juneteenth. It became a motivating and stabilizing commemoration for black Texans experiencing uncertainties associated with their newfound freedom and full integration into American society.
The observance of Juneteenth and its emphasis on black advancement spread from Texas across the United States. Today, 46 states and the District of Columbia officially recognize and commemorate Juneteenth. Modern Juneteenth picnics and parades continue to celebrate self-improvement and education, and Project 21 members want to see that focus become a yearlong quest.
"As we celebrate the anniversary of the recognition of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas and other former Confederate states, we must acknowledge great freedoms and accomplishments by black Americans while realizing our own potential. If we do not, we risk subjugation from other sources," said Project 21 member Marie Fischer. "Despite the fact that we are no longer in physical bondage, too many black Americans are in the grips of a mental and emotional slavery that could undermine the work of abolitionists and civil rights leaders over the centuries."
Fischer added: "Too many of us laud our young men and women who go into sports and entertainment instead of becoming educators and first responders. We glorify 'gangsta' culture as black culture instead of glorifying fatherhood. We look to abortion as women's health instead of taking on and promoting proactive mental and physical health practices for men and women. We use 'Uncle Tom' to denigrate other blacks without realizing the real Uncle Tom, Josiah Henson, built a self-sufficient all-black community. If we continue down this path, we are still enslaved."
"Juneteenth can serve as an intensive look at the unprecedented leaps forward taken by America's former captives. It is also a time to assess what their descendants have done with that hard-won freedom," said Project 21 member Nadra "Cap Black" Enzi. "I'd argue this freedom is wasted in the age of the 'Urban Stockholm Syndrome' of millennial rioting on behalf of dead career criminals who enslave the inner city in violence, addiction and theft."
Recognizing that too many black families suffer from conditions undermining upward mobility and perpetuating unacceptable levels of poverty, crime and other social ills, and believing that government programs have transformed the nation's social safety net into a vicious cycle of dependency, Project 21 created the "Blueprint for a Better Deal dod Black America." The Blueprint identifies 10 key areas for reform and offers 57 concrete, budget-neutral recommendations to remove barriers blocking black Americans from reaching their full potential and ensuring that the American dream is attainable for all. Project 21 leaders have briefed key staff at the White House and with congressional leadership about the ideas available in the Blueprint.
"The celebration of Juneteenth reminds us of the value of freedom, even when delayed. While we reflect on what was lost, and our spirits are renewed by the many ways black Americans have contributed to science, the arts and inventions, there is more work to be done," said Project 21 member Melanie Collette. "Juneteenth provides an opportunity to be refreshed with a view toward the future. Continued work toward necessary reforms like those in Project 21's "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America" is critical to the success of black America."
To schedule an interview with a member of Project 21 about this issue, contact Judy Kent at (703) 759-0269.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by theNational Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.
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