It’s June! The traditional season of celebrating dads and grads, brides and grooms — and of me randomly offering renditions of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “June is Busting Out All Over!” But I digress. 😊
June is also the month that we commemorate “Juneteenth,” June 19, 1865, the day that the total emancipation of Black people held in slavery went into effect in Texas. This was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and nearly six months after the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Communities throughout Texas and elsewhere in the country celebrate Juneteenth each year with festivals and other public activities, many of which include a reading of General Order No. 3:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
Unfortunately, although slavery was legally abolished (under most circumstances), the hope of Reconstruction was quickly dashed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the rapid establishment of “black codes” and “Jim Crow” laws that functionally stripped Black Americans of the rights and privileges of citizenship. And although progress has certainly been made over the ensuing decades, we must acknowledge that efforts to undo that progress have continued as well.
Even where laws have changed, hearts have not. We are seeing serious efforts to legislate (or re-legislate) what unchanged hearts believe should be the reality for those they deem inferior and unnecessary. We seem to keep cycling through a Reconstruction/Post-Reconstruction dynamic — one in which power and privilege are bitterly determined to maintain, and increasingly strengthen, their positions at the expense of people of color, the poor, the immigrant and anyone else considered “the other.”
And what’s worse, they are quite happy to misuse the mantle of Christianity to do it. And so, while we continue to celebrate the victories, we must also continue to “watch, fight and pray” for justice and equality.
On a brighter note (no pun intended), June is also Black Music Month! This month we highlight and celebrate the creativity of Black composers, musicians and singers in a wide variety of musical genres — from classical music to jazz, from traditional gospels to metered hymns and anthems, from blues to gospel, from spirituals to contemporary praise and worship, and more. Music has always been a vital form of cultural and artistic expression, of political commentary and protest, of celebration and worship.
This month, I encourage you to explore the music of artists from the African Diaspora. Learn the stories; share the music. After all, music is called a “universal language.” Let it bring us closer as we work together toward becoming “beloved community.”
Wishing you joy for the journey,