Things That Matter

These Surprising Facts Will Explain Why Latinos Ought To Celebrate Juneteenth

Every year, June 19 marks the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas in 1865. The holiday has come to mean so much more, and now stands as a symbolic commemoration of the liberation of all enslaved African Americans in what used to be the Confederate States of America and is now the United States. June 19 is a cause for celebration, of course, but also an opportunity to question how far civil liberties for Black communities and other people of color have truly come. This is similar to the controversies in Latin America when it comes to celebrating various independence days. For example, did Independence Day in Mexico, which is celebrated on September 16, really mean something for indigenous communities that still live precariously and are seen as an ethnic minority? Or even still, should Latin Americans celebrate Columbus Day even if it was the beginning of brutal and unfair processes of colonization? History is a tricky beast: it is defined by wars and power struggles, and as such, holidays should always be questioned.

So Juneteenth is not short of controversy when it comes to defining its true power as a source of pride. It is common to read reports of the huge inequalities that still permeate everyday life in the United States in areas such as education, job opportunities and fairness in law enforcement. It is sadly common to see videos of police officers abusing young black men and women, sometimes to deadly extremes. Similarly, university education is a far away dream for many Black young people and for people of color in general.

Juneteenth is about love and sorrow, the terrible past and a promising future. For these reasons, Juneteenth has gained renewed importance today, when communities and historians are questioning whether the promise of freedom for African Americans was really fulfilled or if there are still miles to go to attain real equality and justice.

1. Does Juneteenth truly count as Independence Day?

Credit: Twitter. @mathowie

Juneteenth is also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. Celebrations include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and of the works of African-American literary giants such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. But the question remains: is July 4th a celebration for all Americans, or should Juneteenth be seen as the realization of the American Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity?

2. Some argue that Juneteenth is under-appreciated and needs to be a bigger deal.

Credit: Twitter. @deyeskeyra

Some Twitter users bring up interesting debates regarding the celebration, claiming that young Black people should celebrate that first and then July 4th. A big part of African American identity has to do with honoring the ancestors, and Juneteenth is a great opportunity to reflect upon their many tribulations.

3. For 89 years after Independence Day slavery was still legal.

Credit: Instagram. @hbcubuzz

Let that sink in: for almost nine decades millions of human beings were enslaved, even if the United States had gained its independence. Insta is full of interesting historical facts that are like una cubetada de agua fria, a wake up call that needs to be listed too. BTW, these colors are the Pan-African flag!

4. Following 1865: 89 more years of segregation.

Credit: Instagram. @tayejansberry

Some social media users remind us that the abolition of slavery did not bring equality. It was another 89 years before the civil rights movement gained traction and started to right the wrong of segregation. Yes, Black men and women were “free”, but not free to live where, how and when they wished. MLK and Rosa Parks were still a few decades away.

5. Juneteenth is an opportunity to ask ourselves: what is America?

Credit: Instagram. @delstarr_arts

Particularly in the current political climate, full of divisive opinions, Juneteenth is a good opportunity to question the role of minorities in the country. Artist Del Starr echoes the now legendary video by Childish Gambino in which he enacts several key and often traumatic events of recent Black history.

6. Guess what? Not all states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.

Credit: Instagram. @thelilynews

It might seem crazy, but the states of Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota do not recognize the date. The first one to recognize it was Texas in 1980. In other states, it is either a state holiday or a day of observance. It is not a federal holiday, however.

7. Juneteenth works to question and quash stereotypes.

Credit: Instagram. @black.is.dope_

Wow, this is a powerful, assertive and totally true statement. For years, African Americans worked for free and today stereotypes harm their communities, but at the same time, job and educational opportunities are statistically lower for Black populations. That is just not OK.

8. Juneteenth is an opportunity to celebrate African heritage!

Credit: Twitter. @NickBattleMusic

African culture has influenced music, fashion and the arts in the United States and the whole continent for centuries. Juneteenth has been used as an opportunity to showcase African roots. Do you know what a dashiki is? Well, it is a gorgeous roomy shirt from West Africa. Get one and celebrate Juneteenth, whatever your ethnicity is.

9. Juneteenth is a way to express your identity and not follow others como borrego.

Credit: Twitter. @Rickee_Smith3rd

We love this photoshoot of Afro-beauty. The traditional red, black, yellow and green combination looks amazing. Salud for more teenagers like her who are proud of their heritage. Diversity is to be celebrated rather than hidden.

10. City councils are getting it: this needs to be a loud, proud celebration

Credit: Twitter. @wabenews

Atlanta is echando la casa por la ventana from June 14-16. We encourage you to find what your local council is doing and get your pride up and running!

11. Black politicians are a testament to the progress that has been made.

Credit: Twitter. @MayorByronBrown

Black men and women who have been elected into a position of power have made sure that Black identity is celebrated. Byron Brown, Buffalo’s first African American mayor, raised the Pan-African flag as part of the Juneteenth Festival.

12. Cultural institutions also work as a hub for all things Juneteenth.

Credit: Twitter. @mfaboston

Check your local museum’s webpage for Juneteenth events. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for example, is hosting an incredible festival. No te lo puedes perder.

13. A happy coincidence: Pride Month and Juneteenth go hand in hand!

Credit: Twitter. @mixxmomma

In one of those cases in which the stars align, Juneteenth and Pride Month are so close together that Black queers have taken it as an opportunity to double their celebration of pride. It is ALWAYS a good idea to scream to the world: “This is who we are and we love it!”.

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The Significance Behind Today’s Google Doodle of Puerto Rican Activist Felicitas Mendez

Things That Matter

The Significance Behind Today’s Google Doodle of Puerto Rican Activist Felicitas Mendez

Today’s Google Doodle is an eye catching image: an illustration of a smiling brown-skinned woman. She watches children of all colors go into a sun-drenched school, palm trees lining the walkways. A man in a suit escorts two of the brown-skinned children into the building.

The Doodle is of Puerto Rican activist Felicitas Mendez, a woman instrumental in the fight against school segregation between whites and Latinos in the 1940s.

Born in the town of Juncos in Puerto Rico, Mendez moved to the mainland United States when she was 10-years-old. It was here that she experienced her first taste of American racism and inequality.

Because of their mixed-race Puerto Rican heritage, Mendez (née Gómez) and her family were racialized as “Black” by white Americans, and therefore subject to anti-Black discrimination. But when her and her family moved to Southern California to work the fields, she was racialized as “Mexican” and discriminated against by anti-Hispanic racists.

Felicitas Mendez and her husband, Gonzalo Mendez, were the key figures behind the landmark anti-segregation case, Mendez vs. Westminster.

Mendez vs. Westminster was a California civil rights desegregation case which successfully ended the segregation between Latino and white students in the state of California.

As the story goes, the Mendez family moved from the integrated town of Santa Ana, California to Westminster, California, where they were shocked to discover the students were divided into “white” and “Mexican” schools. Since the doctrine of “separate but equal” schooling was a myth, Mexican schools received far less government funding and gave inferior education.

The school for Mexican students was so bad, that Mendez’s daughter Sylvia (an activist in her own right) later described it as a pair of wooden shacks on a dirt lot, surrounded by an electric fence.

school segregation
via Getty Images

Instead of going along with Westminster school district’s policy of segregation, Felicitas Mendez and her husband decided instead to challenge their policy.

In 1945, on behalf of roughly 5,000 Hispanic-American school-aged students, Mendez and her husband filed a lawsuit against Westminster School District of Orange County. And they ended up winning.

The Westminster school-board appealed, but to no avail. In 1947, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling in favor of the Mendezes.

This lawsuit, Mendez v. Westminster, would eventually become the spark that ignited the larger fight against school segregation throughout the nation. Shortly after the win, then-California Governor Earl Warren ordered all California public schools other public spaces to desegregate as well.

Mendez’s experience as being labeled as both Black and Mexican at various points in her life made her an active anti-racist, sensitive to the plight of people and children of all colors.

“We had to do it. Our children, all of our children, brown, black,
and white, must have the opportunity to be whatever they want to be, and education gives them that opportunity,” she said in a 1998 interview.

As today’s Google Doodle illustrator Emily Barrera says: “When I see Felicitas, I see a strong woman, a fighter, a mother, a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement, fighting for the same rights as her own family and heritage.” And that is what she was. A brave activist, yes. A fighter, yes. But above all, a loving mother who wanted a better future for her children.

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A New Law Targets ‘Karens’ And Could Finally Make Their Behavior A Crime

Things That Matter

A New Law Targets ‘Karens’ And Could Finally Make Their Behavior A Crime

@rmtennell / @melodyMcooper / @jaimetoons / Twitter

The ‘Karen’ meme has exploded across the Internet, as entitled white people have terrorized Black and Brown people across the country. It’s a meme that makes light of their ridiculous behavior, but it’s also shining a light on the larger issue of racism and racial inequality in the United States.

Although many of the videos rack up millions of views, it’s important to remember that many of the actions these ‘Karens’ take against people of color are actually threatening the lives of these same people. One false phone call to the police accusing a Black man of harassment can lead to his death at the hands of racist policing.

Now, elected officials across the country are thinking of ways to hold Karen (and her male counterpart, ‘Ken’) accountable for putting Black and Brown lives in jeopardy.

San Francisco introduced the first ever CAREN Act – which would hold Karens responsible for their dangerous actions.

Following a spate of high-profile 911 calls against people of color, San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton on Tuesday introduced an ordinance that would make discriminatory calls for police illegal.

Walton dubbed the ordinance the CAREN Act (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies), in an apparent nod to the popularized slang name that refers to an entitled white woman complaining about people of color. The legislation would amend the San Francisco Police Code to make it unlawful for someone to “fabricate false racially biased emergency reports,” according to a news release from Walton.

“Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting,” Walton tweeted. “This is the CAREN we need.”

Making a false police report is already illegal but Walton’s bill would also make it illegal to fabricate a report based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender or sexual orientation.

San Francisco is just the latest city to consider such legislation.

The San Francisco CAREN bill comes just after a similar bill was introduced in California’s State Assembly by Rob Bonta. His bill would classify discriminatory 911 calls as a hate crime in the state. 

Meanwhile, on the other coast, New York state lawmakers approved legislation last month that allows people “a private right of action” if they believe someone called a police officer on them because of their race, gender or nationality. The move by New York came after Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York City, gained national attention after a video went viral of her calling the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park.

In 2019, the City Commission in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held a public hearing on a “proposed human rights ordinance” criminalizing racially motivated calls to 911 with a fine of up to $500.

And in Los Angeles, the city council is exploring “criminal penalties, rights of victims to bring private civil actions and cost recovery by the City,” he tweeted.

These new bills and proposals come in the wake of countless incidents involving white people falsely accusing Black and Brown people of all sorts of activities.

Credit: @rmtennell / @melodyMcooper / @jaimetoons/ Twitter

Just a few weeks ago, a white hotel employee in North Carolina called the police on a guest, a Black woman and her children, who were using the hotel’s swimming pool. A white woman also pulled a gun on a Black woman and her daughter. Then there was the woman in an LA suburb who took hammers to her neighbor’s car and told them to “go back to Mexico.”

But few are as famous as Amy Cooper – or Central Park Karen – who called the cops on a Black birdwatcher, accusing him of harassing her.

Unfortunately, the Karen phenomenon isn’t an isolated occurrence – it’s an everyday one for millions of Black and Brown Americans.

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