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!”.

For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

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For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

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This year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. To honor the many fearless and historical women who made strides for the rights of women and minorities, People magazine is looking back on them through a new series called #SeeHer Story. The new digital video series airs on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles and is headed up by Katie Couric Media. 

This week, the new series has put a spotlight on the life and times of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King in honor of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the new video, the series highlights her work and contribution to the Civil Rights Movement and lifelong activist as a leader in her own right.

In the new series, King is hailed as a fearless leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

King, who had been born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama, has long been celebrated for her work as an author, activist and civil rights leader in the movement to advocate for African-American equality. Later in her life, years after her husband’s assassination, she broadened her fight for quality to include the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and the opposition of apartheid. 

Throughout her life, King faced racism but her eyes were opened to it at a young age as girl growing up in the south in the town of Marion, Alabama. As People reports, King was subjected to the physical threat of racism when her family home was destroyed by arsonists.

Education became a defining aspect of Coretta’s life. 

Having been born into a family whose paternal great-matriarch had been a former slave, education proved to be an essential requirement in her family home in her early ears. During a speech at Antioch College, Coretta once quoted her mother as having said, “My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on.” She went onto study political activism at Antioch University and later music at  New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was during her time as a student that Coretta met Martin Luther King, Jr., then a theology student. There, the two students bonded over their interest in Ghandi and his practice of nonviolent protests and the two later married in 1953. 

Soon after they wed, they moved to Montgomery and found themselves thrust into the Civil Rights Movement. 

By 1955, King and her husband had taken on leadership positions in the protests that came about after Rosa Parks protest. 

After giving up her dreams to become a classical singer so that she could support her husband, Coretta watched her husband become a full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954.

“We found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself,” Coretta said in the video created by People. During their fight for equality, King and her husband faced extreme acts of racism and violence. In 1955, just months after the birth of their child, Yolanda, the Kings were targeted when a gunshot went through the front door of their home. In 1956, the family’s  front porch was destroyed by a homemade bomb. At the time  Coretta had been home with her  daughter and a family friend. Two years later, in 1958 King’s husband, Martin, had been stabbed while he’d been signing copies of his book.

Still, the couple would not be deterred. The two stood side by side as her husband continued to lead peaceful protests and give  speeches. King herself led a series of her own demonstrations by conducting concerts.

Then, in 1968, Coretta’s husband was shot and killed. 

After her husband’s death,  King had been left a widow and the single mother of four children. In the years after her husband’s death, King gave speeches advocating for civil rights speaking about her husband’s ideals. Eventually King took up her husband’s torch and broadened her fight to include women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, economic issues, world peace and apartheid.

“The world is in dire need of a spiritual awakening which will make those eternal values of love, justice, mercy and peace meaningful in our time,” Coretta said of her work in the clip by People.

Later in her life, King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and continued to extend her activism and worked to fight for nuclear disarmament. 

During her life and after it, Coretta has been celebrated for her work in keeping her husband’s legacy alive. She fought for the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which thanks to King is observed today in all fifty states. 

A Man Spent A Month In Jail After Feds Thought He Was Carrying 3,000 pounds of ‘Marijuana,’ Lab Results Showed It Was Hemp

Things That Matter

A Man Spent A Month In Jail After Feds Thought He Was Carrying 3,000 pounds of ‘Marijuana,’ Lab Results Showed It Was Hemp

Texas Tribune / Twitter

In what was supposedly a giant drug bust by the Texas Department of Public Safety, led to one giant 3,350-pound mistake.

On Dec. 6, a DPS trooper pulled over and arrested a driver who the agency claimed was carrying multiple boxes that held pounds of marijuana east of Amarillo, Texas along Interstate 40. The trooper called for more backup in the form of DEA agents who thought they had the drug bust of all drug busts. They even took to Facebook to post about the incident that showed that showed dozens of boxes, supposedly stuffed with over 3,000 pounds of marijuana, in front of the U-Haul trailer stopped by authorities. 

The culprit, Florida resident Aneudy Gonzalez, 39, a contract driver who was making a cross country trip from San Jose, California, to New York City. Gonzalez was pulled over by the trooper after he was seen driving on the highway shoulder and that’s when things started getting south. 

Gonzalez was being paid to transport the boxes that the DPS trooper smelled upon inspecting the cargo in the trailer. He suspected it was marijuana after he found pounds of the “green leafy substance” in boxes and black trash bags. 

The boxes, however, didn’t have marijuana in them. Gonzalez was being paid $2,500 to transport boxes of legal hemp from a California farm to a New York company. Yet even after he showed the trooper a lab report that verified the cargo met the state’s new legal definition of hemp, he was still charged with federal drug trafficking charges and placed in jail.

According to the Texas Tribune, A DEA agent testified as being unaware of the state law and was confused by the THC content rules. 

The root of all of this confusion stems from the recently passed HB 1325 that was signed into law by Gov. Abbott in June 2019. The law legalized the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp, as well as allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp under a state-regulated program in Texas. According to the Texas Tribune, “any cannabis with less than that amount of THC is hemp, which is used in products like clothing, twine, protein powder, and CBD oil.”

This is where authorities made the big mistake in not only arresting Gonzalez but also breaking state policy in interfering “with the interstate commerce of hemp”, which is exactly what happened here. According to Gonzalez’s attorney, Adam Tisdell, a cannabis criminal defense lawyer, the lab report that was shown to the trooper was more than enough evidence to let his client go. 

“Especially in a time right now of immense skepticism of law enforcement, the idea that Texas DPS and ultimately, a DEA task force agent, would have no idea what the law is and people go to jail that are completely innocent is horrifying to me and I do believe it should be for the other citizens as well. That’s the moral of this story.” Daniel Mehler, another attorney representing Gonzalez with Tisdell, told KCBD

It took an entire month for Gonzalez to finally be released from jail after authorities finally dismissed the case. He intends to file legal action and sue for violation of his civil rights.  

DPS officials issued a statement that read that the trooper that arrested Gonzalez believed that he was indeed carrying marijuana, not hemp. The agency would then send the confiscated material to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to test for THC levels. The results showed that Gonzalez was indeed carrying hemp and was in compliance with federal law. 

“I was just doing my job and the government threw me in jail for almost a month. I fully intend on pursuing justice, whatever that entails,” Gonzalez told Law 360. “Nobody has apologized to me. Somebody owes me an apology.”

After the test results, federal prosecutors asked a judge a month later to dismiss the case, and Gonzalez was released from jail on Jan. 2, a month after being arrested. That sad part for Gonzalez was that this wasn’t the first time he had been arrested on the trip. He spent a night in jail in Arizona after authorities there also confused his cargo for marijuana. He was eventually released the next day after officials determined it was legal hemp. 

Gonzalez’s case is an example of potential problems that law enforcement may face as hemp legalization spreads across the country, with many not knowing the difference between it and marijuana. In return, Texas has seen a major drop in marijuana prosecutions since hemp became legal. Gonzalez’s lawyer says that police need to be more aware of these new laws and be able to differentiate between the two to avoid situations like this in the future.  

“Today we beat the feds,” Mehler Cannabis, the law firm defending Gonzalez that specializes in marijuana-related laws and litigation, wrote in a Facebook post. “We maintained from the word ‘go’ that all he had was hemp, and this morning the U.S. government moved to dismiss the charges against our client.”

The law firm is seeking the return of the property that was taken from Gonzalez and “just compensation for our client losing a month of his life in the custody.”

READ: A New Florida Law And Lack Of Testing Facilities In The State Means Miami-Dade County Won’t Be Prosecuting Misdemeanor Pot Cases