July 4th is celebrated as our nation’s Independence Day, but for many African Americans, Juneteenth is the holiday that celebrates freedom and emancipation from slavery. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, however the official end of the Civil War was not until April 1865,in light of the slow methods of communication and minimal number of Union troops to enforce Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Texas slaves continued to live in bondage until June 18th, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops arrived in Texas to enforce the emancipation of slaves. On June 19th, legend says that General Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to everyone while standing on a villa. That day has since become known as Juneteenth, a combination of the word June and nineteenth. Former slaves in Galveston, Texas rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations that became the start of the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery.
Our struggles today are still related to freedom. While we have made extraordinary gains, too often many in our community are left lagging behind the majority population in not only resources but the information necessary to gain those resources. Research shows that the median wealth for White families in 2013 was around $141,900, compared to Hispanics at about $13,700 and African Americans at about $11,000.The report demonstrates that wealth inequality is actually increasing, not decreasing over time. A gap in home ownership is quite evident according to reports as well. Reportedly on average, 71% of Whites own a home, compared to 41% of African Americans and 45% of Hispanics.
As we head to the backyard for hot dogs and burgers on this 4th of July, take a moment to reflect on the real meaning of freedom in 2016. How do you define freedom ?