In observance of “Juneteenth,” the oldest and most popular commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, members of the Project 21 black leadership network are urging black Americans to overcome the hurt of past suffering and focus on the current opportunities and freedoms offered to them in modern-day America.
“Juneteenth marks the total emancipation of enslaved Americans. But a form of slavery still exists within the black community when too many of us confine ourselves to a rigid political mindset. Due to a very effective campaign waged by the political left, an overwhelming number of us blindly support policies that are not good for us or our community because we are duped into believing conservatives are racist. Conservatives value freedom, and that’s what Juneteenth is all about,” said Project 21 co-chairman Stacy Washington, a columnist and talk radio host in St, Louis, Missouri. “Not only is the left’s smear campaign false, it’s detrimental to the transactional nature of voting. We marginalize ourselves with our monolithic support of a leftist agenda that fails to improve black lives. I hope this Juneteenth can mark a new beginning for blacks in America with a return to requiring real results for political support.”
Juneteenth, now an official holiday or observance in at least 40 states, will be observed on Monday, June 19, 2017. It commemorates the anniversary of the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Those soldiers informed residents that the Civil War was over and President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery two-and-a-half years earlier.
Galveston’s former slave population began celebrating their freedom on the anniversary of this day in an event that became known as Juneteenth. The commemoration became a stabilizing and motivating presence among black Texans experiencing new uncertainties associated with their newfound freedom and their full integration into American society.
“Juneteenth provides a blueprint for black success in the modern era,” said Project 21 member Kevin L. Martin, a U.S. Navy veteran and business owner in the Washington, D.C. area. “Just as the Union soldiers delivered word to the last enslaved Africans that the Civil War was over and they were free, today black Americans who understand the potential of America must deliver the word to our community. They need to teach that only we can save ourselves from the issues plaguing our community such as hopelessness, lack of economic empowerment, lack of quality education, mass violence, distrust and bitterness. We must understand that true freedom is in ourselves, and not a gift granted by government, politicians or self-styled leaders of our community.”
The observance of Juneteenth and its emphasis on self-improvement and advancement soon spread from Texas to be recognized in communities across the United States. While Juneteenth is often celebrated with festivities such as picnics and parades, there is still an emphasis on self-improvement and education that is considered an integral part of the observance.
“In our quest for freedom, the descendants of chattel slavery too often focus solely on past suffering and our liberation from it. Those who freed us are often forgotten in this uniquely American story. These include the white abolitionists, lawmakers, solders and others who toiled to advance our race and give us hope,” said Project 21 member Ted Hayes, a longtime community organizer and homeless activist in Los Angeles, California. “For too long, we’ve not thanked God and those who liberated our people for our grand existence in this nation of freedom. Let’s acknowledge those liberators a little bit more in the story as we observe Juneteeth.”
Project 21 member Richard S. Holt, a political consultant in southern Ohio, added: “Juneteenth observances highlight education. We claim that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, yet there’s no greater place to see a mind wasted than in today’s underperforming public schools. That’s why school vouchers are key to the true modern liberation of black people. Our community must take the lead and boldly shed the final shackles of the oppression of ignorance by fighting tooth and nail to ensure the dreams of our ancestors are finally achieved in our time.”
Project 21 members have been interviewed or cited by the media on thousands of occasions that include the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, TVOne, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Westwood One, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, SiriusXM satellite radio and 50,000-watt talk radio stations such as WBZ-Boston and KDKA-Pittsburgh. They speak out on issues that include civil rights, entitlement programs, the economy, race preferences, education and corporate social responsibility. Project 21 has participated in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding race preferences and voting rights and has defended voter ID laws at the United Nations. Its volunteer members come from all walks of life and are not salaried political professionals.