Friday, June 06, 2008

Juneteenth--Still working toward freedom


If you don't live in Texas, you may not know what Juneteenth is. Actually, even if you do live in Texas, you may not know.

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom. On September 22, 1862 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. The proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1983. For slaves in Texas, however, the news of this proclamation did not reach them until June 19, 1865...nearly 3 years later!!

Though it was a momentous occasion and cause for celebration, the “General Order No. 3” that was passed down read like this:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

Not exactly complete and total freedom...the "Order" still bespeaks injustice.

However, people celebrated their new "freedom" (Juneteenth) that day and every year after that with a "Juneteenth" celebration. Despite the order of "freedom," though, 100 years later freedom in the true sense of the word was not a reality for African Americans. In the '60s, the Civil Rights Movement challenged the definition of that freedom.

And now, 40 years after that, I still question whether people are completely free. As I listen to my friends and neighbors in Rochester Park talk about apartments that are falling apart and moldy, jobs that make their feet swell and create carpal tunnel yet their employer offers no insurance, lack of grocery stores with quality fresh produce, lack of businesses in the community, limited safe places for their kids to play, high obesity rates...how is that freedom??

On Juneteenth (June 19, 2008), we are going to continue working toward gaining freedom in our community.

At 9:00 a.m., we will meet at 6601 Bexar St. to debrief on the guidelines for registering people to vote. We will split people into groups, ensuring that at least one person in the group is deputized, and go door to door in the Rochester Park neighborhood to register people to vote. It is a small area and we hope to be done within a few hours.

However, with your help, we can be done in a much shorter time span...and if we have a large group of people, we will split up into several other neighborhoods as well.

We would LOVE for you to help us! If you would like to be deputized to register people to vote before you come help us, you can go to the Dallas County Elections Department at 2377 N. Stemmons Freewy, Suite 820. It only takes a few minutes. However, you can help even if you are not deputized. We will simply pair you up with someone who is.

Help us celebrate Juneteenth by registering people to vote and enabling a strong voice from South Dallas to be heard!
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