June is about brides and grooms. June is about pride and parades. June is about freedom and emancipation.
Freedom: The need and the desire to have it has been the basis for much if not all of the world's social change, upheaval, and movements. Freedom has become both an agitator as well as the solution for the world's oppressed.
Today as America celebrates Juneteenth we solemnly reflect upon one of the world's most notorious and inhumane treatment towards another group of people.
The History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Celebrated in 28 American states, the holiday commemorates the end of slavery in Texas.
Even though the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive orders that ended the Civil War and abolished slavery in all Confederate States became effective on January 1, 1863, it had little effect on the slave trade in the confederate state of Texas. It would be 2.5 years later, on June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger along with 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX to take possession of the state that the emancipation of all slaves was finally enforced.
Therefore, it was June 19, 1865, when all slaves were finally emancipated and freedom became a reality for the Texas slaves.
Throughout their captivity slaves dreamed of having their freedom, that it became an agitator for them. In fact, they became so restless that they would often stage daring escapes from their masters. Moreover, those who did make it into non-Confederate slave sates appealed to the injustices of their brothers and sisters left behind.
When slavery ended, some families were reunited while other families were created now that slaves were finally able to marry legally. For the first time in their lives they were allowed the opportunity to build stable households, legally protect one another, their children and their assets.
143 Years Later a New Freedom Exists
On June 16, 2008, the state of California legalized same-gender marriage allowing scores of gay and lesbian couples to marry, a freedom that had eluded them their entire lives. The freedom to marry had become such an agitator for the LGBT community that the California legislature twice approved it only to be vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Unyielding and determined more than ever LGBT communities and their straight allies from across the state and the nation came together to plead their case in front of the California State Supreme Court. They emphasized that the only solution to the injustice of not allowing gay and lesbian couples the ability to protect their partners, children, and assets was freedom; the freedom to marry.
Over time, freedom has manifested itself in many different shapes, forms and expressions from religious freedom, personal freedom, to the freedom to marry. In each instance an oppressed group sought to free itself from the societal chains of the status quo.
Today as we celebrate both Juneteenth and the legalization of same-gender marriages in California, let us not forget that freedom belongs to all regardless of race, gender, religion affiliation, sexual orientation, or gender.