Juneteenth, which is celebrated annually, is an important holiday in the Black community. The day has become the most prominent Emancipation Day holiday in the United States and commemorates the moment when emancipation finally reached those in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy on June 19, 1865. It is a holiday meant for celebration rather than mourning and remembrance.
Juneteenth is not just a Black holiday. It is an American holiday. The day signals America finally realizing our founding principles of "liberty and justice for all." Slavery is a dark stain on US history, but Juneteenth is an example that America can move past the transgressions of history in the pursuit of a freer society.
Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and a number of other states subsequently followed suit. In 2021 Juneteenth was made a federal holiday. The day is also celebrated outside the United States, being used by organizations in a number of countries to recognize the end of slavery and to honor the culture and achievements of African Americans.
The word is a combination of the month of June and the 19th, the exact day when Major General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas with 7000 "colored troops" and read General Order Number 3 announcing the end of the Civil War and Slavery. The war had actually ended two months earlier, and the slaves in the region had actually been freed 2.5 years earlier, but their slave masters had NOT set them free. After reading the order, it was posted on the door of Reedy Chapter AME Church in Galveston.
JUNETEENTH: BLACK PRIDE OR PERIL?
JUNE 3, 2022
Invite a Friend or Colleague to this two-hour event. It will be worth every minute as you hear from subject-matter experts on issues impacting the Black community AND Beyond!
Register and Join Us for This Free Live Webinar And Learn More About The Legacy of Juneteenth As We Wrestle With The 2nd Anniversary of George Floyd's Death & Now The Tragedy of The Buffalo Massacre
The event is a multigenerational, multimedia virtual program designed to inspire and engage each attendee to understand why Juneteenth is considered the second Independence Day in American History.
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Make no mistake, America IS filled with racism from sea to shining sea. We are NOT post-racial, and we are NOT on a unified path to reconciliation and self-healing. We are fractured, broken, and loaded with 18-year-old shooters ready to annihilate Black people all over this country.
Buffalo was only the latest tragedy that make my work as a diversity professional that much more challenging. Ten innocent "brothers and sisters" were going about their Saturday shopping activities, only to be slaughtered by a young White boy filled with hate and violence.
All of the victims were Black. That included 55-year-old retired police officer Aaron Salter, who quickly fired on 18-year-old Peyton Gendron but was outgunned by a heavily armed Gendron, who killed Salter in the line of duty.
We call the roll of the other nine Buffalo citizens whose only "crime" was the color of their skin. They could have all been my relatives, friends, church members, or clients. All dead because of a young monster radicalized on his mobile device and/or laptop.
THEY WERE SHOPPING WHILE BLACK
Pearly Young, age 77
Not only a dedicated substitute teacher, church leader, and missionary, Ms. Young ran a food pantry for 25 years.
Deacon Heyward "Tenny" Patterson, age 67
A friendly "jitney" driver, providing transportation to and from Tops Friendly Market to those who needed a ride home with a safe and reliable "brother" in the neighborhood. Playwright August Wilson's production titled "Jitney" addressed the lives of these unofficial, unlicensed taxi cab drivers who operate in Black and Brown neighborhoods around the country. As a child in Detroit, I vividly remember the friendly jitney drivers taking customers home after shopping at the A&P Grocery Store in my neighborhood. I have greeted jitney drivers when I shop in Boston neighborhoods. They are the cornerstone of the community.
Ruth Whitfield, age 86
Wife and mother of Former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield. She had just visited her beloved husband in the nursing home and merely stopped by Tops to grab some food to eat.
Katherine Massey, age 72
Former journalist for the Buffalo News, spirited and described as a "beautiful soul" by her sister Barbara Massey.
Celestine Chaney, age 65
Beat cancer and loved her six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Roberta A. Drury, age 32
Had relocated to Buffalo to care for her brother, who was battling leukemia, surgeries, and bone marrow transplants. She was an avid fan of Whitey Houston.
Andre Mackneil, age 53
Described as a beloved father, brother, uncle, and friend. Mackneil stopped by Tops to pick up a birthday cake for his three-year-old son.
Margus D. Morrison, age 52
Family man and school bus aide Morrison had gone to the grocery store to pick up chicken for dinner.
Geraldine Talley, age 62
She visited the Tops Friendly Market with her fiancé, Gregory Allen, to pick up bologna, cheese, and iced tea. They split up to pick out their food items when the 18-year-old monster entered the supermarket and started shooting. Gregory Allen survived. His beloved Geraldine Talley did not. Allen described the massacre this way:
"I had to duck and everything," Allen said. "Because the bullets are flying, so I had to dodge bullets, and I went inside the cooler. When I went into the cooler, the guy just went past me by like an inch. He would have shot me. I was lucky he didn't shoot me."
Three other victims survived their gunshot wounds and now live to tell the story. That includes Zaire Goodman, age 20, Jennifer Warrington, age 50, and Christopher Braden, age 55.
The ten who were targeted and died were decent human beings so familiar to all of us and could have been our neighbors, cousins, friends, or Sunday School teachers.
There are so many layers to this tragedy that I need to write several articles to cover them all. The abandoned investigation on the shooter, who was questioned for his irrational behavior in high school. The shooter bored during the Pandemic and transformed into a raving white supremacist as a result of it. The countless opportunities to find racist websites online that provide an open recruiting field for those easily sucked into their hateful and violent tactics.
The parents…..WHERE WERE THEY?????? What kind of parents don't know when GUNS, ammunition, and bulletproof armor are kept in the bedroom of their 18-year-old son?????
The white supremacist groups sprouting up like weeds all over the internet that provide manifesto templates ready for the asking.
How can some condone Replacement Theory and denounce Critical Race Theory????
I could go on. And I will in upcoming articles.
This tragedy was only the latest in a worldwide network of fringe groups seeping into mainstream culture. Their growing power is a threat to democracy and decency. They must be contained and destroyed before their hatred kills us all.
If your head is still spinning from the sheer horror of Saturday's spectacle, read what the 18-year-old mass murderer said in his 180+ page manifesto. These are the words of Peyton Gendron:
"Blacks, on average, have a lesser IQ due to restrictions of their brain development. They are prone to violence and common criminal activity. We must remove blacks from our western civilizations."
We're in big trouble, America. This is not a Black problem. Nor a White one. This is an AMERICAN problem, embraced and courted by the right wing of the Republican Party and destroying the hopes and aspirations of many in the Black community.
Yes, it is open season on Black people. Sadly we've been the target of White power since slavery. Buffalo was only the latest violent scene of hatred and racism on steroids.
Finding new opportunities for diversity, equity, inclusion, and multiculturalism are the only ways we will find the exit strategy out of this slippery slope of extinction.
In the 35 years I have served in the diversity, equity, multicultural, and inclusion industry, one of the most popular topics focuses on diversity names, categories, and labels. Let me share my perspective on one category that causes both agreement and disagreement among those who lay claim to its importance and meaning in our global society.
Question: Which Term Is It? Black or African American?
Answer: Either term is appropriate. Some people prefer African American, while others prefer Black. Style, tradition, and history dictate which term to use. From a global perspective, Black is more appropriate, referring to any person of African descent from Lagos, Nigeria, to Liverpool, England, to Los Angeles, California.
The term African American pertains to those individuals living in the United States. It can relate to people like me, a 7th generation American whose ancestors were born in slavery. It can also pertain to those born outside of the US but now living in America.
However, don't be surprised if you encounter those born outside of the US who still reject self-identifying as "African Americans." For example, some in the Haitian community will call themselves Haitian-Americans or Haitians before calling themselves African Americans.
It gets tricky because one term does not fit all. Your best bet is to ASK QUESTIONS and get feedback from a person or group before arbitrarily assigning a label to an ethnically different individual.
Here's where it gets a bit complicated:
The socially acceptable term to use in the United States is "People of Color"
What's NOT acceptable in the United States: "Colored People" (this is an old term closely tied to racial discrimination of the past.)
Please Note: The term "Colored" is still used by some in South Africa to describe people of mixed race.
Old Fashion Term in the US that may turn heads if you use it:
Negro or Afro-American
Yes, I know about the Afro-American Newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland. The retired publisher was the best man at my brother's wedding. It is one of the oldest and most respected newspapers in the US. I also know about the NAACP - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. That organization, like several others, decided to keep its original name, first created in 1909.
A term that is NOT ACCEPTABLE anywhere: Nigger.
It's so distasteful that it's difficult for me to include it in this article. I am particularly offended that it is the word of choice by some hip-hop artists, rap artists, comics, and other entertainers. NO, it is not at all cool to use that word. The historical implications connected to its violent past are still too radioactive to consider mainstreaming its use.
And finally, there are those who only prefer to be called an "American" or "human" and see no value in the realm of diversity categories and labels.
So, your best bet is to ASK people of color which term they prefer using. You might be surprised by their responses.
After 232 years and 115 prior appointments, President Joe Biden stuck to his campaign promise and identified the right woman for the top job. He promised to appoint a Black woman to the US Supreme Court at his first opportunity. When Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement on the Bench earlier this year, President Biden sprang into action with his nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the US Court of Appeals judge with a stellar track record of judicial balance and even-handedness.
And despite a contentious Senate hearing process, Jackson was confirmed on April 8, 2022 by a Senate vote of 53-47, with three Republicans voting for Justice Jackson (Mitt Romney-Utah, Susan Collins-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski-Alaska). Vice President Kamala Harris read the results as the Senate Chamber burst into thunderous applause. A historic Supreme Court confirmation of a Black woman from Florida was announced by the first Black woman Vice President of the United States.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will serve a lifetime term in the Court and will start her service as soon as Justice Breyer retires, most likely sometime in June.
With such an outstanding series of events, here is why every Black woman can relate to Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson:
1 She's Grounded.
Justice Jackson will have served as a sitting Judge longer than most of the other Justices. She's been a sitting judge for nearly ten years, with no trouble in getting confirmed for her other federal appointments. She also sets the record for having served as a public defender, and she clerked for Justice Breyer early in her career. She knows the law and has been praised for her ability to look at issues from both sides of the spectrum.
Black women know that often we have to be twice or three times as prepared to qualify to get the job.
2 She's Well Educated
Her mother was an educator, and her father was a lawyer. She graduated at the top of her class at Miami Palmetto Senior High School and was admitted to Harvard University in spite of a non-visionary guidance counselor advising her to lower her educational expectations.
Black women are used to being "dumbed down" by guidance counselors who don't see their brilliance. Not the first time, nor the last, that a counselor gave bad advice to a top Black student.
Justice Jackson would graduate from Harvard College (1992) and Harvard Law School (1996) with flying colors.
I wonder how many other students of color suffered through the low expectations of a high school guidance counselor. Too many…far too many.
3 She's Unmoved By Political Hacks Like Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn
I had MUCH to say after reacting to the ridiculous and racially motivated Senate hearing questions by Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn. Some of my words can't be put in print because of the vile contempt I have for Cruz and Blackburn. Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley round out the quartet of Trump sycophants who have sold their souls to the devil. While I wanted to throw my television down a flight of steps because of the questioning of Justice Jackson's judicial record, she remained unmoved.
When Senator Blackburn asked Brown-Jackson to "define a woman," Justice Jackson looked mildly puzzled and artfully skipped over the trap that lay before her. Blackburn, in later comments, referred to Jackson in terms of being the recipient of "dark money Leftist groups" and "pushing the agenda of woke education" as she explained why she felt Justice Jackson was unqualified for the job.
That's when I wanted to throw my television down the steps in protest of this right-wing racist woman who can't imagine a dark-skinned Black woman serving on the Supreme Court.
I reacted in front of my television set. Justice Jackson, who had prepared for the brutality of the Republican Senators, remained unmoved. She was rewarded when Romney, Collins, and Murkowski joined the Democrats to vote for this brilliant woman of action.
Black women understand the resilience and emotional constraint it took for Justice Jackson to remain unmoved when the Senate attacks mounted.
4 She's Visionary
Three of her Harvard roommates and good friends were interviewed on national television about their college and law school days with Justice Jackson. Attorney Antoinette Coakley, who is one of my friends and church members here in Boston said, "It was very clear from the first time that we met her that it was special. I remember telling her when we were in the dorm, 'You are going to be the first black woman on the US Supreme Court.'"
Justice Jackson was a brilliant debater in high school. While Fox News' Tucker Carlson was asking about Justice Jackson's LSAT scores (law school entrance test scores), her high school classmate, Stephen Rosenthal, told news reporters about the numerous medals she won from the debate team victories.
Justice Jackson knew from an early age that law was her profession and nothing deterred her from fulfilling her dream of success. She was supported by loving parents and guided by trusted hands throughout her college and law school courses. Her vision translated to the historic confirmation despite senators who wanted to squash her dreams.
Black women know that vision often turns into reality when you believe in yourself.
5 She's All In
The vitriol spewed out by small-minded politicians was washed away by the triumphant speech by Senator Cory Booker. He elevated the moment to its rightful, historic place when he showered Justice Jackson with praise and adoration. On March 25th, he said the following:
"I'm telling you right now, I'm not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy! I am embarrassed... I'm just looking at you, and I'm starting to get full of emotion. You didn't get here because of some left-wing agenda. You didn't get here because of some dark money groups. You got here how every Black woman in America (who) has gotten anywhere has done...by being like Ginger Rogers said, "I did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards in heels.'
That star was a harbinger of hope. Today you are my star!"
That 19-minute speech by Senator Booker will go down as one of the greatest speeches by any senator. It proved that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is an "All In" woman of integrity who represents the BEST in Black America.
Every Black woman gave Senator Booker and a virtual standing ovation for his unwavering support of Judge Jackson. She's All In because of the love of her husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, and her daughters, Talia and Leila. Her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, married for more than 54 years, solidly stand by her. So does her younger brother Attorney Ketajh Brown.
Black women know that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is All In because she's prepared to preside in the US Supreme Court as the harbinger of hope for us all.
The time is now, and this country is the better because of Black women like Ketanji Brown Jackson. She may be the first but certainly won't be the last. We salute her courage under fire for a job well done!
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.