Today, June 19th, 2021, the US celebrated, for the first time, Juneteenth as a National Holiday. The celebration follows the event held on Thursday, June 17, 2020, when US President Joe Biden signed a bill into law, making June 19 a national holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved black Americans.
The signature event was attended by Opal Lee. Opal Lee, affectionately known as the grandmother of Juneteenth by Blacks and those concerned who have been following her fight, is 94 years-old.
Opal Lee was born on 7 October 1926 in Marshall, Texas. Her close people, the Black community in general and the caring people around the world waited for 155 years, 11 months and 28 days, to have the events around June 19th being officially recognized. The commemoration marks the event when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to spread the news of the Emancipation Proclamation outlawing slavery in Confederate states, which had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln more than two years earlier (see here: US: Juneteenth, or June 19th, Becomes A National Holiday To Commemorate the End of Slavery)
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Opal Lee has spent decades as an activist and in Juneteenth celebrations and more than 40 years advocating the recognition of the event. In her activism, she launched a walking campaign in cities, from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C.
It was not easy to convince the US Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a National Holiday.
In fact, the latest National Holiday bill was signed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a celebration of Rev Marthin Luther King Jr.'s contribution to the civil rights movement. It took 15 years, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 to 1983.
Juneteenth as National Holiday is a step in the right direction, but the road to the equality for all remains long.
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Activists, civil rights activists, and others have been calling for more actions to address the consequences of slavery. These actions include racial justice, prison and police reforms, reinforcement of measures against racism, and fairness, unbiased, unprejudiced, nondiscriminatory, anti-discriminatory practices in education, wealth creation, and economic opportunities. With these actions Juneteenth commemoration will move from symbolism to substance.
For example, when Ms Opal Lee was 12 years old, on June 19, 1939, a mob of white supremacists attacked, vandalized and burned to the ground her family's home in Fort Worth, Texas as police stood by, doing nothing to stop the violence. Her family was attacked for having move to a white neighborhood.
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