Group of men in Civil War uniforms, likely for a re-enactment of the Union’s entry into Galveston.
Group of men in Civil War uniforms, likely for a re-enactment of the Union’s entry into Galveston. Credit: Grace Murray Stephenson of Juneteenth celebrations in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900

S.E. Williams

Across the inland region this past weekend the community celebrated Juneteenth in a multitude of meaningful ways, from parades to picnics, to walks and art exhibits, to  informal and formal neighborhood gatherings, to meaningful conversations and informative discussions, members of the community honored their ancestors, celebrated themselves and advocated for future generations.

Although our once and hopefully—not future president—the dishonorable Donald J. Trumps brags that he alone deserves credit for making Juneteenth famous, those of us who live in the real world know that is just one among the many “BIG” lies he unabashedly proclaims.

In truth, it was the generations of enslaved Africans who survived capture, the middle passage, generations of enslavement, reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and a perpetual system of institutional disparities that propel those of any color in this country who believe in righteousness, to remember this day as a point of demarcation between enslaved and freed Black bodies. I say it this way because the minds and souls of Black folks were never in bondage.

“Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.”

Al Edwards, Texas Politician and Activist

It is this truth that propelled Black people forward and enabled our ancestors, despite the burdens afflicted on their bodies to hold fast to a promise of the future for their children with the hope of better days.

It is this same spirit of determination that today inspires an educated (through book and/or street knowledge), more empowered, and self-aware  community of Black Americans and their supporters, to continue the generational resistance against injustice, to make the same compelling arguments for fairness in America appealed by previous generations and to do so supported by equal passion and buoyed by data which,  in the process, makes it more difficult– for those who perpetuate a white racist mindset–to coherently and intelligently deny the need for change.

Today, with determination we are creating space for ourselves at the table where decisions are made and, in the process, we are finding ways to bring an even louder voice of consciousness, a measure of fair compromise, and serving as a bulwark against what has been an historical mantra against progress progress—the word “wait.”

As we mark Juneteenth 2023, in addition to remembering that we’ve waited long enough and that “we are our ancestors wildest dreams” we must also remember that on Juneteenth we celebrate more than freedom from chattel slavery.

On this day, in addition to freedom of our bodies, we celebrate the hope and promise that accompanied it. It reminds us that we must continue to resist partial citizenship as we advocate for the fullness of what it means to be an American.

This includes everything from access to the franchise; to education; to the right to own property and equal access to the instruments of finance to make homeownership possible (coupled with the unencumbered access to live where we choose); to healthcare; to social justice; to an unbiased criminal and judicial system; to fair compensation for our labor; and the equitable distribution of tax dollars needed to sustain and enhance our communities.

As noted above the freedom we celebrate on Juneteenth encompasses more than the act of emancipation. It reminds us that we cannot rest on our progress.  Like  those who came before us, we still have work to do. Ella’s Song, written by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon in honor of the great civil rights and human rights leader, Ella Baker, stated this charge eloquently when she wrote, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it’s won.”

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real. 

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at