On or around June 19th of every year, the descendants of freed slaves celebrate a day that is more than just a holiday, Juneteenth is a remembrance. It is a day that we as Americans collectively remember the gifts of freedom and unity by celebrating the progress the world has made since the days of slavery.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, which was the third consecutive year of the American civil war between the Northern states and Southern states. It was designed and signed in order to set free close to four million African Americans being held as slaves in the U.S. The signing of this new law into order sadly was not enough to secure freedom for all, more than two years later, slave owners in the south still refused to give up what they considered their property, and because of the oppressive design of slavery, the slaves themselves had no way of knowing that the civil war was over and they had legally been set free.
On June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger, an officer of the Army as well as a general during the civil war, led Union soldiers through Galveston, Texas delivering the news that the civil war had ended over two years ago and that the estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas were now free.
It has been said that of the first things those newly freed men, women, and children decided to do, setting out on journeys to find their separated family members and friends was on top of the list of most. The desire to reunite and celebrate this newfound freedom is quite possibly the root of these annual celebrations. People from different communities come out and unite for days of fun and sometimes even relay history lessons through song and dance, or just basic conversation with each other, or make sure our past is not forgotten. In a way, you could say that African Americans throughout different communities come out and find each other all over again every year.
Different kinds of celebrations take place around the world annually, here in Battle Creek, Mich., Juneteenth 2019 was a two-day event. The first day consisted of the “Old-School Softball Game” that takes place here every year. The diversity of the Greater Battle Creek Area came together to have fun and honor the progress we’ve made as people in regards to race relations. The Old-School softball game took place at Claude Evans Park in the Washington Heights area of the city. Organizations from the smallest to the largest participated, even the Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert as well as Michigan State Representative Jim Haadsma came out to hit a few balls and share the field with kids and community members. After the game there was a movie in the park, a showing of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was played while the sun set in the background of Washington Heights. Kids covered the grass under blankets, and the parents seemed more consumed by this animated film than anybody else in the park that night of Juneteenth 2019 in Battle Creek.