The Indiana County Commissioners approved a proclamation Wednesday marking as Juneteenth, an event marking the end of slavery after the American Civil War — and one that will be recalled June 15 in a “Stronger Together: Community Unity, Meeting the Future Now” cookout and program at Mack Park in White Township.
“Juneteenth is the commemoration and celebration of the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the United States and was designated by the Pennsylvania legislature as’Juneteenth National Freedom Day’ in 2019,” Commissioners Board Chairman R. Michael Keith read. , 2021, June 19 was declared a US federal holiday by President Joe Biden, making Juneteenth the 11th US federal holiday, now approved and celebrated in all 50 states. ”
As read by Keith and Commissioners Robin Gorman and Sherene Hess, the proclamation later presented to two members of the Indiana County NAACP summed up the history of Juneteenth — and the problems still found in race relations 157 years later.
“It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the Union soldiers, led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free,” Keith read. “(It) was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which became official Jan. 1, 1863.”
That proclamation only covered 3.5 million slaves living in the 10 states still in rebellion at the time, within what was the Confederate States of America, but not the 500,000 slaves held in states that remained within the Union, including Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.
Nearly six months later, West Virginia, made up of counties seceding from the rebel slave state of Virginia, was admitted to the Union.
On Dec. 18, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution ended all slavery in the now-reunited nation.
“Formerly enslaved individuals turned abolitionists of years past and tireless organizers of today, many of them young adults of multicuiltural and diverse backgrounds have contributed to our nation’s long march toward progress,” Keith read on. there is also) the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, and many carrying BLM banners demanding that our nation live up to the principles expressed in our founding documents. ”
Gorman picked up from there, with more of the “whereas” portions of the proclamation, stating that “the deep wound of slavery has not healed due to systemic racism, discrimination, and other challenges against Black / African Americans, resulting in segregated and underfunded schools; unequal education; lack of affordable housing; mass incarceration; inadequate and persistent healthcare disparities; police brutality; racial wealth gaps; and diminished economic opportunities. ”
She continued: “Current events in the African American community, such as the significant disproportion of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic; protests around the country against systemic violence. Racism, police brutality, and other disparities as health and wealth gaps are grim reminders. of the need to observe Juneteenth if the country is going to truly address the fear, anger and weariness of Black Americans and others. ”
Before passing the proclamation off to Hess to conclude the reading, Gorman also noted, “whereas, the Juneteenth celebration started as a time for liberation and reassuring each other, with prayers, gathering of remaining family members, and others in a range of activities, from rodeos, fishing, cookouts, music, dancing, (children’s) activities (and) games to baseball, were provided. ”
Those were traditions that continue today, the proclamation continued.
“Certain foods such as strawberry soda-pop, red velvet cake, soul food, and cook-outs became popular and subsequently synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations,” Hess said. the elders recounting past events and prayers play a major part in the celebration. ”
Hess said all citizens of the county and their guests “are called to action by the local NAACP, America’s oldest civil rights organization, to commemorate Juneteenth 2022 as a celebration of the end of slavery in America, with their attendance on June 15, 2022, at Mack Park. ”
The proclamation said the program is “designed to promote community involvement and foster relationships to help build a more inclusive community that supports our survival as a caring society.”
Hess read the last “whereas, through music, speakers, ethnic food, scholarship and contest winner announcements, and other special honors, Juneteenth 2022 offers us an opportunity to reflect on the country’s ongoing emphasis of the importance of commemorating and celebrating Juneteenth and to share with others their ideas about actions needed to eradicate racism, racism, systemic violence, and to foster equity, equality and inclusiveness. ”
Receiving the proclamation on behalf of the Indiana County NAACP were members Lael Jenkins and Anna Frank.