Juneteenth, Part the Second

10 07 2010

(See the previous post for Part the First)

Curious and clueless, I looked up “Juneteenth”.

Thank-you Wikipedia!

On June 18th, 1865, General Gordon Granger and 2000 Union troops entered Galveston, Texas and took possession of the state.  The next day, General Order No. 3 was read to the people in the last state to officially abolish slavery and recognize Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made almost three years earlier:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

The next year, jubilant public celebrations marked the anniversary of freedom, and the holiday became shortened to “Juneteenth”.

I am as Caucasian as the snow that falls in Northern Michigan.  I haven’t really experienced racial prejudice, and I’ve certainly never been a slave.  Yet, even when I was young, photos and stories of people enslaved caused a visceral response in my gut.  And recently, without any conscious intent, my hatred of slavery showed up in a song I wrote.

Way past midnight as I alternately sang and wrote, the beginning of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address forced its way into the lyric because I needed a rhyme.  Not knowing why it was in the song, I read and re-read the short speech that he gave in 1863 to dedicate the Gettysburg cemetery during the Civil War on the site of the bloodiest battlefield in our nation’s history.  Around 2:00 AM I understood.  Lincoln wasn’t giving a history lesson in the opening sentence.  “Four score (a score is 20 years) and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  His last phrase was an indictment against the people of the United States for giving lip service to freedom for the past 87 years while brutally enslaving hundreds of thousands of fellow human beings.  The issue had been settled in 1776 in the Declaration of Independence, which he quoted at the end of his opening sentence.

Those 87 years (and many more before 1776) of slavery should never have happened.  Juneteenth should not be a holiday.  All Americans should celebrate Independence on July 4th.  Stupidity, arrogance, and mismanaged power, however, made a second Independence Day necessary.

A couple of months ago I heard Efrem Smith*, the African American pastor of Hip Hop Church, speak on the freeing power of the arts.  He asked himself as he was wedding the arts with worship in his new church, why music, storytelling, and other arts were so important for his enslaved ancestors.  What was it like for a slave to connect his artistic gifts and his devotion to Jesus?

“Their identities were totally transformed as they went into the back woods under threat of being beaten after working a 15-hour day.  In the darkness, broken people, through song and dance, through art and storytelling, became the Beloved of God!  Worship wasn’t about a performance; it was about freedom.  It was saying, ‘I’m not a slave, the oppressed and broken, I am THE BELOVED OF GOD!'”

That is the story of the day on which I was born.

I gladly give up my claim on June 19th to celebrate freedom.  An ordinary girl fades into the background to become part of something far more important.


*http://www.efremsmith.com/ (his blog)

*http://www.towardwonder.com/prodsb.asp?invtid=PR34350 (download the mp3 or DVD)

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20 06 2014
Juneteenth – Part the First | ordinary girl

[…] to come soon.  Sign up to receive an email notification (top right) when I post Part the Second.  Thanks for […]

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