WASHINGTON, DC -- On "Juneteenth," the oldest and most-popular observance of the end of slavery in the United States, members of the Project 21 black leadership network call upon their fellow black Americans to use the civil rights-themed holiday as a tool to assess how they can take full advantage of the freedoms and opportunities their predecessors lacked.
They also call upon all Americans to consider how their liberties must be secured against an ever-expanding government policies that can limit them.
Juneteenth, now an official holiday or observance in at least 40 states, is Friday, June 19.
"Because of their attitudes, thoughts and behaviors -- in addition to corresponding political loyalties -- blacks today willingly volunteer themselves to an emotional, intellectual and spiritual form of slavery. Though physically free, this current bondage has seen blacks forfeit almost every aspect of their lives to government control," said Project 21 member Derryck Green, a doctoral candidate living in the Los Angeles area. "By faithfully supporting big-government policies that diminish, control and deliver sub-standard opportunities for blacks as well as increase the black underclass, destroy families and encourage dependency, blacks are ceding their freedom to the same sort of oppressive control that slaves escaped 150 years ago."
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Those soldiers informed residents there that the Civil War was over and that President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had already abolished slavery two-and-a-half years earlier.
In the years that followed, Galveston's former slave population celebrated their newfound freedom on the anniversary of this day. The event became known as Juneteenth. The commemoration became a stabilizing and motivating presence for black Texans who experienced new uncertainties associated with their release from bondage and their integration into American society.
The observance of Juneteenth, and the event's emphasis on self-improvement and advancement, soon spread from Texas to be recognized in communities across the United States. While Juneteenth is often celebrated as a festive event with picnics and parades, there is still an emphasis on self-improvement and education that is considered an integral part of the overall observance.
"As Americans, we relish any opportunity to celebrate freedom -- and the festivities surrounding Juneteenth are no exception," said Project 21 memberStacy Washington, a radio talk show host in St. Louis. "As we gather in fellowship, let's extend our focus to include fresh ideas and viewpoints such as school choice and a smaller, less intrusive government. As a minority group, blacks have made fantastic achievements. Yet those gains are slipping away as more and more children are born out of wedlock and present black fathers are a rare commodity. This Juneteenth, let's resolve to reverse that trend."
With public attention currently focused on the size and scope of government and its intrusion into daily life and peoples' privacy -- be it government surveillance tactics, expanded police power or regulatory mandates that often disrupt business and personal affairs -- Project 21 members are suggesting black Americans pay special attention to how freedom and opportunity may be at risk because of government overreach. They should also consider what they can do -- by themselves or by working with others -- to bring about reform that will increase and protect freedom.
"After 150 years of freedom from racial oppression, including 50 years of massive government intervention and entitlements, this anniversary of Juneteenth might best be spent in collective discussions among black Americans about what things continue to retard full participation in the American way of life," said Project 21 member Joe Hicks , a former executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Los Angeles resident. "The Great Society programs launched by white liberals produced millions of government checks and amounted to the most ambitious redistribution of wealth in the nation's history. But what if this and other liberal efforts such as minimum wage laws and affirmative action actually hurt black Americans' aspirations? After all these efforts, there is persistent black joblessness and poverty, a yawning black-white learning gap and shocking black-on-black homicide levels in cities such as Baltimore and Chicago. This June 19th, given the cultural and political crisis that haunts black communities nationwide, perhaps Juneteenth discussions should be about the extent of harm caused by government programs and handouts."
"Blacks must realize our basic freedoms have never been more under attack in the modern era than they seem to be now," said Project 21 member Kevin Martin, a Navy veteran from suburban Washington, D.C. "Blacks suffered the brunt of the Great Recession and were left behind by a jobless recovery, yet it is the progressives who oversaw this debacle who claim to have our best interests at heart. Black conservatives must be like those Union soldiers of 150 years ago in bringing word that blacks no longer need to unquestionably embrace progressive policies. They need to teach that, through conservative tenets of self-reliance and educational choice, we can achieve and maintain our freedom."
"In the spirit of Juneteenth, I rededicate myself to the one freedom I've defended my entire life: the freedom to be safe from private thugs and overreaching government," said Project 21 member Nadra Enzi, a community policing activist living in New Orleans. "I rededicate myself to trying to preserve my small strand of the legacy which sustained American blacks that now seems all but unraveled in too many communities. The lesson Juneteenth teaches me is that freedoms are ours to safeguard or lose. I choose to guard my freedoms -- starting with safety!"
In 2014 and 2015, Project 21 members have thus far been interviewed or cited by the media over 2,500 times -- including on TVOne, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fox News Channel, Westwood One, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, SiriusXM satellite radio and 50,000-watt talk radio stations such as WBZ-Boston and KDKA-Pittsburgh -- on issues that include civil rights, entitlement programs, the economy, race preferences, education and corporate social responsibility. Project 21 has participated in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding race preferences and voting rights and defended voter ID laws at the United Nations. Its volunteer members come from all walks of life and are not salaried political professionals.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).
Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.