ROXBURY, Mass. — Many people got the day off of work or get paid as a holiday now that Juneteenth is an official holiday, but few people know what this holiday represents.
If you think about most of the holidays we have, they’ve seemingly deviated from their original meanings.
For many, Christmas and Easter are no longer about Jesus, they are about Santa and bunnies. Labor Day & Memorial Day have become cookouts. Thanksgiving is about turkeys and many people you ask about Juneteenth will have the same answer.
The holiday commemorates the emancipation of the final enslaved people in 1865.
”I just learned about it maybe three or four years ago, it wasn’t taught in schools, didn’t even mention it,” said Kurtis Elwell of Belmont.
”I can say I did not know about Juneteenth as a black woman until a couple of years ago so I think that’s a disservice,” said Rachel Forbes of Belmont.
Juneteenth, which became an official federal holiday Thursday, was recognized in Massachusetts a year ago with a proclamation signed by Baker.
”I’m glad to see the federal government catch up with us,” said Gov. Baker. “In some ways, it will force people to think about and reflect about that stain and about that time and acknowledge and recognize it accept it and work to write the terrible wrong that was done to so many.”
Still, reflection is one thing, teaching the actual history is another.
”June 19 is freedom day for us because folks in Texas got the word late about the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Acting Mayor Kim Janey. “But that Emancipation Proclamation only freed enslaved folks in confederate states not everyone in the United States, it will take the 13th Amendment to get there.”
Janey says that has to be taught in schools.
”It should be it is American history and we need to make sure that our curriculum and our schools reflect history and lives and the stories,” said Janey. “It’s not just Black Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans and so many folks that need to be included and certainly and the indigenous folks we’re here before any of us were here.”
Organizers of the inaugural Juneteenth celebration at Nubian Square say they hope to hold the event annually and say events like it are one way to keep the main thing the main thing. They hope that we hold onto the meaning behind Juneteenth and don’t transform it into a holiday for businesses to offer sales.
”I know people like to commodify things and all that but I think this is one of those holidays that it really has to stay pure,” said Elwell.
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