Take a Peek at Be The Bridge: Juneteenth

Take a Peek at Be The Bridge:
A history lesson with Rev. Dr. Kathleen Wright

Meet Rev. Dr. Kathleen Wright. She is originally from Chicago and pastors St. Paul AME Church here in Springfield. Dr. Wright is part of the current Be The Bridge group here at Hope.  The Be The Bridge model was created by founder, Latasha Morrison. Morrison’s organization equips individuals to serve as ambassadors of racial reconciliation with a unique Christian perspective.
Juneteenth is the oldest known African American celebration. On June 19, 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas received word of their emancipation: two months after the Civil War had ended, and two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863.

After the war ended General Granger arrived in Galveston to issue the General Orders, Number 3 to free Texas’s 250,000 slaves. Some slave owners withheld the news of the emancipation until after the harvest season. That December, slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.

The end of slavery was not the end of discrimination, racist violence, or murder. Factors such as Black Codes, white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, voter suppression, Jim Crow (segregation), and lynching took its place.

In most communities of African descent Watch Night began on December 31, 1862. It was, and still is, a religious service where many prayed for and watched for the coming of God’s deliverance. It came on January 1, 1863, a day of “Jubilee”, a day of freedom from enslavement. Frederick Douglass wrote that it was “a day for poetry and song, a new song.”

A few of the many activities of celebration include rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball. There is always a focus on education, self-improvement and community engagement. Reenactments and the readings of famous writers such as WEB DuBois, Frederick Douglas, Zora Neale Hurston and Maya Angelo are presented in public square settings.

In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Today, 47 states (Illinois in 2003) recognize it as a state holiday. Congress has stalled in making it a national holiday.

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