In Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, formerly enslaved Blacks in that state finally received official confirmation of their (supposed) freedom- almost two-and-a-half years late. Despite that delay, those 250,000 folks celebrated enthusiastically, just like thousands of African-American men, women, and children in this city will celebrate on June 17, 2017, thanks to the Philadelphia Community of Leaders (PCOL) headed by Kenny Gamble and Rahim Islam along with Michael Rashid and Ali Salahuddin who supervise PCOL’s “iBuyBlack” movement.
Before explaining the upcoming festivities and the “iBuyBlack” initiative, I must explain the historic genesis of Juneteenth 152 years ago. Juneteenth’s name is what’s known as a pormanteau, which is a linguistic blend of words that fuses sounds and meanings, i.e., the words June and nineteenth were combined by our forcibly and formally uneducated ancestors to create the new “Juneteenth” word.
Juneteenth is the oldest celebration commemorating the (purported) ending of slavery in America. And it is officially observed in 43 states and DC. The first was Texas in 1980.
Close to two-and-a-half years before the Civil War ended on May 9, 1865 after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee a month earlier, President Abe Lincoln on September 22, 1862 announced that his Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect on January 1, 1863. As an aside, I must mention that his proclamation wasn’t worth the paper it was written on because it didn’t really end slavery or free any of the approximately four million enslaved Blacks. It included only the confederate states that were in rebellion and excluded enslaved populations in northern states as well as specifically in Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee, “west/southeast” Virginia, and lower Louisiana,
By the way, the 13th Amendment, ratified on December 6, 1865, didn’t really end slavery either. Instead, it created modern day racist mass incarceration by allowing a new type of slavery as set forth in section one of that amendment, which states: “Punishment for crime… (after having been) duly convicted … shall exist within the United States ….”
But I digress. Let’s get back to Juneteenth. It was born on June 19, 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with 1,800 troops. From the Ashton Villa balcony, he announced General Order Number Three, which declared that “The people of Texas are informed that … all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights … between former masters and slaves….” That’s cool and everything, at least as far as it goes. But why did it take so long for our ancestors in Texas to be notified after the 1862/1863 proclamation? Here’s the answer: Since the capture of New Orleans by the Union Army in 1862, many worried slaveholders in Mississippi, Louisiana, and other states to the east packed up 150,000 of their human cargo and sought racist sanctuary in relatively faraway and lawless Texas in the Southwest where it was believed they could escape the Union Army’s reach.
Since 1865, our ancestors have celebrated Juneteenth. Although these cultural celebrations all across the nation are important, cultural empowerment is even more important. And there’s nothing more culturally empowering than our people owning land. That’s why we must follow the lead of our ancestors and elders who purchased land in Texas for year-round Juneteenth-related activities. That land includes Emancipation Park in Houston in 1872, Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia in 1898, another Emancipation Park in East Austin in 1909, and Stringfellow Orchards in Hitchcock in 2005.
PCOL is a strong advocate of cultural empowerment. That’s why it created the “iBuyBlack Discount Card” that provides Black consumers and all other consumers with high quality products and services from Black-owned businesses throughout the Philadelphia area with discounts for each cardholder.
In the white community, the dollar circulates for 17 days. But in the Black community, it’s only for six hours! We gotta do better. And although we are broke individually relative to whites individually due to systemic and institutional racism, we ain’t broke communally. In fact, the 46 million Blacks in this country, which equals 14 percent of the population, have combined spending power of more than $1.2 trillion this year, which is projected to increase to $1.4 by 2020. That’s a lotta power, yo. And we can solidify that power by spending our money on ourselves at our own businesses.
PCOL understands the power of economics. It also understands the power of culture. That’s why Kenny Gamble said, “Juneteenth activities are important because they are reminders of what our enslaved ancestors were robbed of and they also are calls to action for us today to reclaim what was stolen from us yesterday- and to ‘do for self’ in the process by establishing and patronizing our own businesses.”
Rahim Islam stated, “Juneteenth programs are essential because they stem from the Black holocaust, better known as the Maafa, which must never be forgotten and must be avenged through reparations along with Black-on-Black commerce, meaning Black economic development.” Michael Rashid noted, “Juneteenth events are vital because they celebrate our freedom from physical slavery. However, PCOL and the ‘iBuyBlack’ movement won’t be satisfied until we can celebrate a mental and financial Juneteenth.”
That’s why you must join PCOL at its “Second Annual Universal Juneteenth Parade and Festival” on Saturday, June 17 beginning 12:00 pm at Congo/Washington Square at Seventh and Locust and march with PCOL to the Slavery Memorial/President’s House at Sixth and Market for an emotionally riveting presentation followed by and ending with an ethnically enlightening showcase at the African-American Museum at Seventh and Arch.
Throughout the day’s event, there will be celebrity guest speakers, dynamic marching bands, precision drill teams, rhythmic African drummers and dancers, cultural stilt-walkers, skillful musicians, delicious food, and eclectic vendors. Moreover, the “iBuyBlack Discount Card” will be available for purchase. For more info, log onto ibuyblack.org or call (215) 732-6518.
Being “woke and broke” is a joke. But being “woke and wealthy” is healthy. Let’s start doing some cultural and financial exercises on June 17.
Michael Coard, Esquire can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD96.1FM. And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.