Juneteenth: The History of Our Victory Continues
As the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” However, this left slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It was not until one hundred and fifty-seven years ago that the enslaved Americans were made free on Monday, June 19, 1865. Language is power and communication is key. Without the two working in tandem, some may still question why the long wait before a People were made free. Imagine, a farm with beautiful shades of brown quail birds in a cage. One day, the farmer opened the cage and set the quail birds free. One may think, off the quail birds would fly to their freedom in great joy and liberation; however, none of them left. Is it, one may ask they were treated so well and made a conscious decision to remain? Were the quail birds in fear of harmful, even deadly consequences? Or were they deeply conditioned to that way of caged life that an open cage did not communicate freedom to leave? It was not until the farmer communicated to the quail birds that they shall be free by gesturing them to the open cage door that they were finally made free. By no means am I comparing the inhumane treatment of slavery to quail farming; nevertheless, I am inviting us to imagine if the two conditions of “shall be free” have any similarities.
Learning of this freedom came the great Celebration of Black Independence, affectionately known as Juneteenth, a celebration Spokane, Washington is no stranger to. In June 2011, the Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition (INWJC), a 501 (c)(3) organization, was established here in Spokane, Washington by co-founders Mr. Michael Bethely and Mr. Alan Jones with the blessing of the Spokane Minister’s Fellowship (a faith-based leadership organization). This was in hopes to bring Spokane and surrounding communities together to build communities around the ideals of liberty, literacy, and livelihood, the INWJC organization’s three ideals. Bethely shared that he first experienced Juneteenth as a youth living in the state of Arkansas at a celebration called “June Dinner.” Vendors were showcasing traditional artifacts, goods, art, music, and much more. “[Juneteenth] is a piece of history [and] everyone should know about it,” Bethely added. Music is the heartbeat of the Black culture. When faced with obstacles, weighty decisions, and sacrifice, Bethely shared there’s one song that gets him through. “… As a PK (preacher’s kid) it’s the famous “Can’t Give Up Now” by Grammy Award Gospel singer duo Mary Mary.” Like many of us in the Black community, we too can attest to the faithful message of this song.
Faithfulness, commitment, and spreading love pays off. In May 2021, House Bill 1016 passed making Juneteenth a legal, paid state holiday beginning Monday, June 20, 2022. May we continue to rest in this victory. Bethely shared a hope he has for INWJC and all supporters and friends, “… [May we all] enthusiastically embrace the spirit of the holiday and keep it going.”