This past weekend, on the 19th of June Black people across the globe celebrated Juneteenth. So what really is Juneteenth about?

The word Juneteenth is a bled of the word June and nineteenth. It celebrates the abolition of slavery under the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation under president Lincoln. The 19th of June 1865 was the day that this proclamation was belatedly announced in Texas.

Picture of Juneteenth celebrations in Virginia circa 1905

New York Times Article: What is Juneteenth?

As seen in the picture above, black people in the USA have been celebrating this day ever since the abolition of slavery. So the question arises why people, in for example Hong Kong, are only hearing of this holiday for the first time this year.

2020 was a memorable year, to say the least. The murder of George Floyd by Derik Chauvin, a policeman at the time, sparked global protests against the institutional racism in the United States and the violence of the policing system. These protests brought attention to many of the injustices that black people are still living with in the USA today that are remnants of slavery and imperialism. In light of this Juneteenth also gained more public exposure and was finally officially recognised as a public holiday. This is probably why more and more people are hearing about the day now.

So what significance does Juneteenth have outside of the USA?
For black people all over the globe the history of the transatlantic slave trade has been an integral part of our histories. Whether this was in the form of having ancestors stolen from the continent, or whether it was through the sustaining of the ideology of white supremacy that was used to justify the atrocities of imperialism and colonialism. Hence, Juneteenth for us at the Africa Center is a celebration of the emancipation of our black siblings and a marker against the fight against white imperialism. This is why we celebrate.

Despite countless obstacles faced by Black people in the US, they built, they created, they persevered, and this should be rejoiced.

Edna Bonhomme, 2021

Chisingaperi chinoshura.

Shona Proverb meaning ‘all things come to an end’

In its essence, Juneteenth celebrates a day that for many enslaved people was impossible to even imagine. It celebrates the fact that all things come to end as the proverb above says. In this way it reminds black people all over the world that the oppression and racism we are faced with today will also come to an end. Juneteenth in its essence is a marker of a collective past and a hope for a better and just future.

If you are interested to know more about the experiences and celebrations of African Americans you can join us for our event series ‘U.S. Race Relations 101’ happening on the 4th of July.

US Race Relations 101
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