Honoring Juneteenth

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Today is Juneteenth. Also known as “Black Independence Day” or “Freedom Day,” Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery, particularly in Texas, and more generally throughout the former Confederate States.

While the Emancipation Proclamation was officially announced on January 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1965 that Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, under the leadership of Major General Gordon Granger, to deliver the news that the Civil War had ended, and that slaves were now free.

Today, Juneteenth is celebrated as a day to name our history, to remember those who suffered under chattel slavery, to honor those who fought for collective freedom, and to continue to commit to the end of racism and white supremacy. It is a day to hold in tension the progress that has been made along with the grave inequities that still exist in our society.

On this particular Juneteenth, in 2019, I am reflecting on how to honor the spirit of Juneteenth in a few ways.

First, I am reflecting on the reality that true reconciliation cannot happen without reparations. On this day, the House Judiciary Committee meets to hear a panel on reparations, exploring the idea of reparation for Black Americans in this country. As a Christian, I feel conviction that our country must begin to seriously explore what concrete models of reparations might look like, in order to pursue true healing, repentance, and restoration.

Secondly, despite not knowing about Juneteenth or growing up celebrating it, I am reflecting this year on what this holiday means for me and my family, especially as I raise two biracial (Black/Korean American) daughters in the American context. I hope and pray that our country does better when it comes to issues of race, and that the world we are creating for my daughters holds greater equity, dignity, and justice, for ALL people. I hope and pray that the shackles of white supremacy that bind our country will be fully broken, not just partially loosened. And I am resolved to use my voice and leadership to continue to fight against forces that keep people in bondage.

Protesters in Hong Kong- Vincent Yu (AP)

Protesters in Hong Kong- Vincent Yu (AP)

Finally, on this particular Juneteenth, I am thinking of my siblings around the world who are resisting forces of injustice, oppression, and violence. I lift up the protesters, revolutionaries, and freedom fighters- whether in Hong Kong, or Sudan, or Venezuela- who continue to fight for democracy, an end to tyranny, and for collective liberation. I pray for God’s justice and righteousness to reign in those places, and pray especially for the Church to rise up as a beacon of light that would not grow weary of singing “Hallelujah to the Lord.

On this Juneteenth, may we all continue to both celebrate the gift of freedom, while also fighting for collective liberation for all those who don’t experience its fruits in full.

Prayer for the End of White Supremacy
by Kenji Kuramitsu- Booklet of Uncommon Prayer

Healer God, whose church predates the
doctrines of white supremacy
by more than a thousand years,
empower us with words and wisdom to confront
all racial divisions sown by colonizers and cultural elites.

Teach us alongside all your saints
to remember our people, all people,in our bones,
to stitch their hymns and heritage into our hearts.

Help us each to reconnect with the cultural heritage that
birthed us instead of the violent racial categories into
which we have been forced.

Amen.