The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) continued last week’s celebration of Juneteenth, the most recent federal holiday in the United States, with the group’s first in-person event since the state reopened on June 15 – and since. that the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order came into effect in March 2020.
Billed as the âCLBC Juneteenth Black Family History Event,â the commemoration focused on black miners and the critical role they played during the California Gold Rush of the 1850s. family of the miners, serving as history experts, assisted CLBC members and research staff with information for the celebration.
The event took place at the Constitution Wall Courtyard in the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento, where California’s first black Secretary of State, Shirley Weber, made her first public appearance in the establishment since she sworn in to assume this role.
Weber, whose parents were sharecroppers in Hope, Ark., Said there is “another side of California” that should be historically told in context.
âWe believe California is a free state, but there are many examples where people were brought to California as slaves and were forced to stay in California as slaves,â Weber said. âAnd then when there was an opportunity for them to stay in California, they wanted to stay there. But the government and others decided they would pass the Fugitive Slave Act. So if you came here (as a slave) you were sent back to Mississippi or Alabama. So it becomes important when we talk about repairs that we have a complete picture of California and what has happened here. “
Like the story of Juneteenth, the experience of black miners in California is largely excluded from texts and research. But one such bondage story was told by the event’s keynote speaker, Jonathan Burgess of the California African American Gold Rush Historical Association.
He explained how his Black family’s land was taken from them. He also said the “real history” of California had not been fully explained and, for him, it was “a miscarriage of justice to teach our children an incorrect history.”
“My goal is to educate and enlighten those who are uninformed and believe that slavery does not exist in California,” Burgess said last week as he celebrated June 15 as a federal holiday. for the first time in 156 years of history.
âI also want to share some of the tactics that were used to take land. This has been happening since the individuals came to what was supposed to be a free state but was not completely free, âsaid Burgess.
Like Burgess, many black leaders, celebrities and activists here in California – and across the country – have endorsed Juneteenth as the 12th nationally recognized U.S. holiday. But they warned Americans of all walks of life to resist the urge to reduce, arguably, the most significant historical moment in black American history to an annual marketing event.
Last week, President Joe Biden enacted the June 15 National Independence Day Act after most of the United States House and all members of the United States Senate who voted on the Bill l ‘have approved.
June 19, or June 19, marks the day in 1865 that Major General Gordon Granger of the Anti-Slavery Union Army visited Galveston, Texas to let enslaved black people know only two and a half years before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the United States – on paper.
âGreat nations do not ignore their most painful times. They embrace them, âthe president said, celebrating the passage of the bill and marking the end of slavery and honoring the history of African Americans.
State Senator Brian Dahle said, âWe shouldn’t be afraid to learn our history. The more we shed light on the truth, the better we make decisions as we face the challenges of our time. Events like this are a positive way to move forward together â.
Genealogists and members of the Sacramento African American Genealogical Society welcomed black lawmakers and staff, and set up laptops to help guests find their way to their ancestors. The black history resources were provided by FamilySearch International, a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of once-hidden records have been made available free of charge by the Church as a tool to help the world understand that all people are connected as brothers and sisters of God.
Mixed reactions to Juneteenth Holiday
Other black leaders have taken to social media, group chats and in-person chats to celebrate and âbreakâ Biden’s decision to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Some have complained that while the symbolism of the holiday is important, important current issues such as voting rights, police violence, adding black history to the educational curriculum, and reparations need to be included in the legislation.
A number of posts have centered their skepticism and criticism about the possible commercialization of the holiday.
“I better not see a single sale of Juneteenth mattresses, can you all hear me ?!” We have not stopped picking cotton to resell it to us for a profit. Give us repairs, not capitalist BS, âactress JackÃ©e Harry posted on Twitter on June 17th.
Anthony Samad, executive director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute at California State University Dominguez Hills turned to Facebook.
“Why do we need another GOTDAMNED vacation, anyway? Another day to fuel capitalism by spending money black people don’t have? Samad fired. âIt’s a distraction away from the racial hostility we experience today and away from the reparations discussion,â said Samad, who is also an educator, columnist and author of several books.
Samad warned that marketing Juneteenth could take a lot of nasty turns.
âJuneteenth celebrated the day that federal troops arrived in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves only in states in rebellion against the Union,â Samad said. âTexas ignored that the Confederacy had lost the war and the emancipation until Union troops came forward to enforce it. He is already appropriate with a false and distorted narrative.
On Roland Martin’s digital daily show, guest Carl Mack, former chair of the Seattle County Washington-King branch of the NAACP, said hundreds of thousands of African Americans remained in slavery after June 19, 1865. Mack said he supported the efforts, knowing the true breadth and depth of Juneteenth’s story is something all Americans must grapple with, he said.
Regardless of differences of opinion, California state lawmakers believe a public holiday in June will strengthen knowledge that was obscured beyond the black community.
“This is a timely and appropriate step in the right direction as conversations continue around slavery and reparations for the descendants of these atrocities,” said State Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chairman. of the CLBC. âToday is an opportunity for fellowship, celebration, and recommitting ourselves to fighting the lasting impacts of slavery that continue to affect the lives of black people in America. If we don’t learn from this story, we are doomed to repeat it.
State Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) also added that Juneteenth was celebrated last week in the Senate as “Freedom Day” and that many lawmakers, as well as many blacks, were also unaware of its existence.
âIt’s a shame we don’t talk about it in our schools, (kindergarten) through 12th grade, high schools and beyond,â Kamlager said. âIt’s really important that we know our history and that we know who we are. “