Here's Why Biden Made Juneteenth the First National Holiday Established Since MLK Day

Genius Turner
In 2021, the time felt right to finally make "Black Independence Day" an official holiday.(David Paul/Getty Images)

Biden said establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday will go down as "one of the greatest honors" of his presidency

HOUSTON, Texas — "As we establish Juneteenth as our newest national holiday, let's be clear about what happened on June 19, 1865, the day we call Juneteenth," said Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black vice president. "Because you see, that day was not the end of slavery in America. On that day, the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas learned that they were free ....”

Harris, who mentioned most Americans don’t actually know what Juneteenth means, once again reminded us why — among life's misfortunes is the possibility of 'knowing' something that's untrue. After all, it's untrue all Americans of African descent were freed after the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared freedom as of January 1, 1863.

As Harris pointed out, the enslaved people of Texas, were the last in the nation to be informed that the Civil War had ended and therefore left them — “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would say a century later.

It was not until June 19, 1865, then, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, did enslaved people of Texas finally overhear Lady Liberty singing.

Indeed, the Juneteenth celebration commemorates emancipation in Texas!

Sure, in Texas we've been celebrating Juneteenth for over a century and a half now, with the state itself being the first nationwide to honor the day as a holiday, in 1980, yet now with President Biden having made "Emancipation Day" an official holiday, as the saying goes — better late than never.

Juneteenth in Texas: a down-home celebration of African American culture
Juneteenth parades celebrate love and the triumph of principles.(Richard Levine/Alamy Stock Photo)

Each Juneteenth amid the sweet-scented barbecued chicken and even sweeter potatoes, Granny could be spotted honoring the tradition of seas(on)in’ and greasin’ — everything from “the rooter to the tooter.” After all, in Houston, Juneteenth is "Black 4th of July," as Uncle Mike once said.

I can still hear the Godfather of Soul blaring from the speakers: "Say it Loud — I'm Black and I'm proud!" Brown's thumping anthem was a skilled display of how to serve positive affirmations to descendants of slaves, in hopes of reprogramming their subconscious minds. After all, though the pain is invisible, the victim can never hide the scars.

Admittedly I've always been a tad too nerdy for my own good. By the time I turned 10, my mother — only 14 years older — had me reading everything she read. Needless to say, books like the Mis-Education of the Negro made it somewhat challenging to fully "pig out" on Juneteenth traditional food.

I was keenly aware that my enslaved ancestors, who’d once occupied my very spot on the world’s stage, due to resourcefulness attempted to euphemize the scraps which Massa had trashed. One man’s trashed pigs’ guts became another man’s treasured “Chitterlings.”

Pigs’ tails, pigs’ feet and hog jowls merely served to remind me why — though the pain is invisible, the victim can never hide the scars. Nevertheless, aside from that, I loved and still love everything about the time-honored Juneteenth tradition.

Big Floyd's presence still looms large
The martyred Floyd became a driving force behind ensuring Juneteenth was made a federal holiday.(Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)

Growing up, Big Floyd stood 6-foot-7 — chiseled in brown statuesque skin, from head to toe, as if he were some hero plucked from Greek mythology. Today, the gentle giant's presence still looms large.

"Momentum to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday picked up steam last year during a summer defined by racial unrest and Black Lives Matter protests in response to the murder of George Floyd by the police," the NY Times notes.

Indeed, President Biden has expressed fondness for the Floyd family, even inviting them to the White House and vowing to keep in contact. According to PJ, Big Floyd's brother, the president is a "nice man who really cares about solving the justice issue."

“The promise of equality is not going to be fulfilled until we become real," the president said. And given that real is said to recognize real, no wonder President Biden sounds familiar.

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