I used to celebrate Juneteenth wholeheartedly and excitedly. I would prepare to attend as many of the celebrations as I could pack into a weekend. I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Juneteenth was the height of the summer. There were outdoor stages set up in the historic Greenwood district, where well-known entertainers performed often for free. The songs that spoke to us as a people rang throughout the night. There was amazing food and vendors selling handmade art, clothing, jewelry, jams, and jellies. Sunday was Gospel Showdown when local and surrounding choirs would take the center stage to uplift and celebrate our Freedom as a people and a community.

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Over the years, a different crowd began to invade Juneteenth. They were not there to celebrate but to steal, fight, break into cars, disrupt the bands, and disturb the atmosphere of Juneteenth. Juneteenth, in Tulsa, was canceled for several years. The gospel groups were the first to disappear, then the other groups gave way to songs and music that angered and inflamed the crowds. It was no longer a safe place for the community to celebrate “How We Overcome”. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in Juneteenth celebrations. I hope we are celebrating for reasons beyond anger, hate, and intolerance.


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I no longer celebrate because we are still facing the same hate and slavery that we try to convince ourselves is over. We are still angry at the injustices Brown, Tan, and Black people were angry about in the ’60s, ’70s, 2000s, etc., etc. I have to ask myself what FREEDOMs are we actually celebrating. Juneteenth is when enslaved people received the Good News that they were FREE! It was indeed a day to celebrate and rejoice. It still took months, and years for slaves to participate in their freedom and the freedom of others like them.

I hate to think that freedom killed 19 children and adults in Texas. I hate to think the police didn’t respond cause their freedom said it wasn’t important enough. I hate to think freedom ended the lives of a doctor and those trying to protect him. Was it freedom that let a person take their pain out on others? I hate to think freedom killed workers in a factory. But didn’t freedom, let the gun-toting person buy the weapon of destruction?


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Today there is very little FREEDOM to celebrate. I am sad and disillusioned by a world that has failed to live up to its promise. I am angry at a nation that turns a blind eye to the hurting right next door. I am horrified that the idea of Freedom for all has been replaced with Freedom for none.

Please lend your voice and your passion to the backyard barbeques, the family get-togethers, the fireworks, and baseball games. When all that is done, we will shake our fists at heaven and demand to know “WHY” another senseless murder has happened.


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