The High Desert Black Heritage Committee hosted the 26th annual Juneteenth celebration over the weekend. The celebration symbolizes more than the physical release of slaves from their plantation bondage, but has become symbolic of total freedom in every area where the chains of bondage continue to hold the people captive. Forty-one of the fifty states now observe Juneteenth as a holiday; activists fought diligently for the recognition, forming Juneteenth America as an umbrella for unifying their collective work.
The phrase, “Juneteenth” was coined by the slaves in the Galveston area of Texas; they are believed to be the last ones to realize that the Emancipation Proclamation signed January 31, 1863—almost 18 months before-- had released them from forced servitude. When Union soldier General Gordon Granger rode into town, called an assembly and read General Orders number three, the people were ecstatic. They killed the fatted hen, and had a celebration that they coined Juneteenth because it occurred on June 19. It epitomizes the conscience of personal dignity and human rights that are inherent in all peoples.
Today, after an absence the remembrance has returned. It is more than a mere social gathering to have fun and mingle; it still encompasses the basic issues of human rights. The right to earn a decent living, to educate one’s children, to live without the fear of racial profiling, to survive a police stop. These are the chains that continue to ensnare us as a people and must be fought with the same diligence as the fight for recognition of the memorial.
The event was opened by Mattie Davis, president of the Black Heritage Committee, followed by the traditional opening ceremonies of an event. Vendors set up their booths, the music called the populace to come and join the memorial at Hook Park in Victorville.
The guest speaker was Lionel Dew, president of the Victor Valley African American Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the Victor Elementary School District. Dew began by telling the assemblage three truths about America. First: People were already here, the Native Americans; second, people came here, the primarily European peoples; third, people were brought here. People of African heritage.
He went on to talk about the need for quality education, about growing up in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia where the community leaders were Black, the doctor, the dentist, the mortician and the teachers. When one constantly hears the verbiage that African Americans as a people are slow learners, do not have the capacity to perform complex equations, that is an outright untruth. He reminded the people that our children are the brightest generation, and we need to nurture them. No one comes into the world as a bad person; however, people tend to make bad decisions that have severe repercussions.
Dana Turner gave an overview of Juneteenth history. She has started a new book club for sistas.
The cities of Adelanto and Hesperia and the First District Supervisor’s office presented proclamations to Ms. Davis in commemoration of Juneteenth.
Entertainment included the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inland Empire chapter under the direction of Dansby Studivant Jr.; the singers and performers produced a moving drama on the effects of music in the development of our people. A young man’s mother and grandmother educate him on the music that uplifts us as a people and some of today’s fare that denigrates us. The message was loud and clear, the power of music to soothe or capture the soul’s passions and desires.