Things That Matter

These Surprising Facts Will Explain Why Latinos Ought To Celebrate Juneteenth

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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!”.

Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

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Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in 2017. Nearly two years later and infrastructure is still in planning mode. That’s because, even though Congress allocated $20 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico, very little has been released to Puerto Rico.

As campaign season for 2020 is in full swing, Trump has ordered the largest, most expensive parade in U.S. history. Military tanks will line the National Mall. Warplanes will fly over the Washington Monument, and he’ll have his own televised address. Celebrating America’s Independence Day will cost $92 million, and it leaves behind Puerto Ricans.

On July 1, The House Oversight Committee sent a letter demanding the White House release sealed documents surrounding Hurricane Maria.

@JRehling / Twitter

A similar letter was sent on May 6th with no response. Democrats are now seeking a “compulsory process” that would legally require the administration to hand over the documents. The Bush administration released 18,000 documents related to Hurricane Katrina when asked.

The Trump administration has come under fire for its lack of response to the disaster. What is it hiding?

In October 2017, Trump visited a Puerto Rican church and tossed paper towels.

@6halfdozenother / Twitter

Given that nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, critics point to this moment as an example of the lack of empathy shown by the President of the United States for U.S. citizens in the midst of a worsening tragedy.

At the time, he painted the death toll of 16 people as a victory.

Trump argued that Maria wasn’t “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

@climateprogress / Twitter

In an attempt to downplay the impacts of Maria, Trump used the false death count toll as a symbol of victory. He later refused to acknowledge the official death toll of nearly 3,000 deaths.

The death toll rose in the six months following the storm as a result of the lack of electricity, clean water, and weakened healthcare.

Netflix

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz blames the Trump administration for “neglect.” “I screamed, literally, out at the top of my lungs to say ‘We’re dying here’ and the bureaucracy and the inefficiency of the federal government was killing us,” she told BBC news.

The Puerto Ricans who used FEMA’s hotel vouchers on the mainland are now largely homeless.

Netflix

Netflix’s documentary After Maria depicts a total lack of strategy for Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed by Maria. They were granted a fixed amount of time in hotels on the mainland, without any support to rebuild their home. When the time ran out, they were transferred to homeless shelters.

The state of Georgia has implemented a ‘Puerto Rican interview’ for those applying for a driver’s license.

@carlitocenteno / Twitter

After Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services refused to return Puerto Rican Kenneth Cabán’s identity documents, Cabán is suing the department for “unlawful and discriminatory treatment of American citizens from Puerto Rico.” The agency claims Puerto Rican documentation is cause for “fraud review.”

All this making it clearer that Puerto Ricans are second class citizens.

@ricardorossello / Twitter

Twitter user Carlos Centeno thinks that “too many white folks, we Puerto Ricans are undocumented immigrants until we prove otherwise. What Georgia is doing is not only racist, it’s economically debilitating to these U.S.-born citizens and their families.”

In After Maria, we witness how these experiences lead displaced Puerto Ricans to conclude that they’re not wanted.

Netflix

As devastating as Hurricane Maria was to the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, what After Maria shows is the psychological effects of what happened after. We see a young pre-teenaged girl fall into a depression as she’s bullied by her new peers in New York. We see how the system failed Puerto Ricans and how there could be no other reasonable conclusion for the survivors.

There’s the trauma of experiencing that hurricane and surviving, while so many didn’t.

@yarimarbonilla / Twitter

Folks are already tweeting about the stress of the power going out already, in July. Puerto Rico isn’t ready for another hurricane season. It’s still recovering from 2017.

And the trauma of prepping for another season.

@luvsjoonie / Twitter

Many Puerto Ricans want to be granted statehood. They want the same treatment and respect offered to victims of Hurricane Harvey. They do pay taxes, but they don’t benefit like other taxpayers.

Largely, Puerto Ricans have taken it upon themselves to cope and recover.

@NPR / Twitter

These are volunteers at a retirement community in Rio Piedras. They’re helping to train its residents on how to cope and deal with the stress and depression that persists years after Hurricane Maria. Given that those communities were at much higher risk of mortality after the hurricane, the fear is credible.

With news that Trump’s Fourth Parade might get washed out, this Puerto Rican has one thing to say:

@MAGGIEHALOWELL / Twitter

Hope it helps. Happy 4th of July.

READ: Bad Bunny And Ricky Martin Killed A ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill In Puerto Rico Furthering LGBTQ+ Rights In The Caribbean

For Afro-Latinos Celebrating The Right To Freedom On The Fourth Of July Invokes Memories Of History And Government Wrongs

Culture

For Afro-Latinos Celebrating The Right To Freedom On The Fourth Of July Invokes Memories Of History And Government Wrongs

If you identify as Afro-Latinx, the Fourth of July can bring up some complicated feelings, to say the least. Although the day commemorates the Founding Fathers officially declaring independence from Great Britain’s tyrannical monarch, it also is a day to celebrate American patriotism, which in some spheres has developed into a sort of blind nationalism.

It can be difficult to feel in the mood to wrap yourself in the American flag and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” when we’re constantly subjected to headlines exposing the horrors of the migrant crisis at the border, mass incarceration of black and brown people, and not to mention, the history of the US being founded through the oppression and enslavement of black and brown people.

Chris Rock put it perfectly a few years ago when he took to Twitter to speak his thoughts about the Fourth of July: “Happy white people’s Independence Day. The slaves weren’t free, but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks”. That’s the feeling that many Black Americans feel regarding the day that we’re supposed to celebrate as the birth of one of the greatest, richest, most powerful countries in the world.

For many Black Americans, the Fourth of July is simply a painful reminder of all of the injustices, past, and present, that America has inflicted on their people.

From slavery to Jim Crow laws, to lynchings, to police brutality, to mass incarceration, there seems to be so much violence inflicted on the Black community at large by the hands of American institutions of authority.

Not only does the celebration of the “independence” of America from its colonial oppressors conveniently ignore the years of slavery America subjected Black people too, but it also ignores the genocide of the indigenous populations that lived in the U.S. before European colonization. Are we to forget that the whole continent of North America was completely “independent” before white colonizers ever stepped foot onto its soil?

As Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez from Latino Rebels wrote scathingly  in her piece, “The Fourth of July: A Celebration of Hatred” and you will find a lot of white smiling faces, celebrating as if America was ever theirs to begin with.” So yeah: Independence Day is a complicated holiday for people of color for more than one reason.

Before the Civil War, Independence Day was historically a holiday almost exclusively celebrated by whites.

And why shouldn’t it have been? Even for free blacks, it would’ve been hard to express devotion to a country that currently enslaved thousands of people of your same race solely based on the color of their skin. As Frederick Douglass put it eloquently in a speech addressed to a crowd of white people during a Fourth of July gathering: “I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…”

According to historians, if a black American did celebrate Independence Day before the Civil War, they would often do it on July 5th to acknowledge the different relationship they, as black people, had with the so-called “land of the free” that was both their oppressor and their home country.

But, interestingly enough, there was a major shift in feelings towards the 4th of July in the black community after the Civil War ended.

So, although the Fourth of July does not rank among the likes of Martin Luther King day for its importance in Black History, it nonetheless has a surprising history of celebration with America’s black community.

While most white Southerners felt little to no loyalty towards the United States of America after the Civil War and would “shut themselves within doors”, as one woman put it, in order to blot out the shame of their failed rebellion, black Southerners began to look to the holiday as a way to celebrate their new-found freedom. Basking in their new freedom, black Americans looked to the holiday as a way to celebrate their own independence as well as the independence of the country they lived in.

According to Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts at The Atlantic, after the Civil War ended, free blacks “gathered together to watch fireworks and listen to orators recite the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery when it was ratified in late 1865”. Black Americans organized parades in honor of Independence Day, congregating to watch companies of black militia march down the streets.

Black southerners also created a ritual song and dance called “Too-la-loo” in which a group of men and women would form a ring, a woman would move to the center, and eventually, she would choose a suitor to join her. The game was so popular that “Too-la-loo” eventually “became shorthand for the Fourth of July” in South Carolina.

But like many burgeoning black traditions in the Antebellum South, the establishment of the Fourth of July as a black holiday was short-lived. Once Jim Crow laws took hold of the local government, the white population made it all but impossible for black people to continue their Independence Day festivities. Authorities pushed their “Too-la-loo” festivities to the outskirts of the city, and eventually, out of the city altogether. They forbid vendors from setting up shop on the streets where the festivities had been taking place. After a few years, black people no longer looked to the Fourth of July as a means to celebrate their freedom, and it became a “white holiday” once again.

These days, the Afro-Latinx population in America still wrestle with complicated feelings towards the Fourth of July.

On one hand, it can be viewed as a carefree celebration–a time to enjoy barbecues, beer, and fireworks with your friends and family and, of course, to get a day off of work. But, when some Latinx people look deeper into the holiday, it’s hard not to experience feelings of emptiness or frustration. And these feelings can be exasperated when you’re Afro-Latinx, as you have both the specter of black slavery and indigenous genocide to contend with on a day that is meant to celebrate American exceptionalism. As Patricia Montes, a Honduran immigrant living in Boston, said about the Fourth of July in an interview, “I feel very conflicted. What are we celebrating? Are we celebrating democracy?”

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