This weekend, African Ancestry will be among millions of Black people and businesses who are celebrating the national holiday, Juneteenth, which commemorates the day of emancipation of enslaved Black people in the United States.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth – also known as Freedom Day – is a powerful day of reflection and celebration honoring those who came before us and endured slavery and the generations and generations that persevered. We were officially “allowed” freedom from enslavement and were transitioned from a perception of property to personhood. The truth is, we have always been full, whole, wonderful people.
We’re tuning in and enjoying the day and the strong meaning behind it: liberation, freedom, reflection, community and identity.
The Verdict is in
As of Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 the Senate came to an unanimous decision that Juneteenth (June 19) would be recognized as a federal holiday. The now US holiday commemorates the ending of slavery in the states and will be added to calendars as “Juneteenth National Independence Day.” And like our ancestors back in Galveston, we guess America got the memo late.
It is certainly a long time coming, but it accurately reflects the slow nature of change around the day itself. We can agree that it took far too long to rid the country of its distasteful enslavement practices. But even after the Emancipation Proclamation, the freedom address delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in January of 1863, it took two whole years before the last enslaved person was notified and set free. That person, who lived in Galveston, Texas, was freed on June 19, 1865.
While this was a great feat and moment of change, it hasn’t always been regarded as a celebration. In fact, it wouldn’t be until more than a century later, in 1980 when Texas declared the day as a state holiday. This year, Oregon and Washington followed suit, naming Juneteenth as a state holiday -- meaning that full time employees at non-private companies will be able to get paid off, much like the American Independence Day celebrated on July 4. They followed Massachusetts, New York and Virginia who declared the holiday in 2007, 2020 and 2020 respectively.
After years of deliberation, including rejection of making the day a holiday at the federal level on the Republican side, the decision has officially passed through the Senate to establish the day as the 12th nationally recognized holiday.
Now, we’re left with the decision of the House and ultimately, the signature of President Joe Biden to make the final call establishing it as solid law.
What does it really mean?
It appears to be a domino effect. The bill, that was in large part, was accelerated by efforts of protestors and activists when the untimely murder of George Floyd grabbed nationwide - even global - attention. The Black Lives Matter movement and the Democratic party reclaiming the White House in 2020 has brought the legislation to the public and government forefronts.
Now, retail corporations are getting on board, too. Big companies like Nike and JCPenny are promoting the holiday and seem to be capitalizing on the day with new products from apparel to notepads and pins.
Screenshots and commentary on social media around the efforts for establishing the Juneteenth official holiday have been polarizing. Some, like Opal Lee, who is a 94-year activist who has helped pushed legislation towards this decision, are excited for the change.
She shared with NPR that establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday will symbolize “freedom for everybody”.
The nationally celebrated Independence Day, which Americans honor on July 4th, doesn’t really move Black people as, in 1776 when it was established, most were still enslaved.
"I'm advocating that we celebrate freedom from the 19th of June to the Fourth of July," says Lee. "People are taking notice, but I want it officially on the calendar."
Others, like this Twitter user , notes that it feels like it’s way too late. The frequent question is why now? Why does it have to take so long? Long-term discussions to convince people of the importance of their freedom has frustrated many.
Where do we stand?
One of the pillars of our work is helping those of African descent to activate the deep roots of their identities and support their liberation, connections and strengthened legacies. In short, it's too late, yes. The acknowledgement of what we've already known and who we have always been is delayed, but progress in the grand scheme of things.
We, a 100% Black-owned, operated and staffed company, are proud to give that back to individuals, families and businesses in Black communities.
It’s about liberation. Identity. Full and whole personhood. Juneteenth, while only now trending and making strides in legislation, has always been near and dear to us as a company.
Our founders – Dr. Rick Kittles and Dr. Gina Paige – are committed to helping Black people better understand who they are and optimize the benefits derived from healthy identities, connections and enlightenment.
Here at African Ancestry, we lean heavily on family. In fact, one of the first things that our DNA test takers receive with their results is membership to our African Ancestry Online Community, where they can extend the impact of their newly-found ancestries and connect with thousands of people that have done the same. This is what it means to be a family member of AfricanAncestry.com -- and our family comes first! Once anyone takes a MatriClan (which traces the maternal lineage) or PatriClan (which traces the paternal lineage), they become part of the ever-growing African Ancestry family that’s been growing for the past 18 years.
For that reason, we want to tap into our family members to see what they think.
We’d like to hear from you...
How are you feeling about the legislation and corporate changes around Juneteenth? What does it all mean to you?
Share this post and your comments. Let’s talk about it!
Don’t forget to take advantage of our Juneteenth sale on DNA Test Kits. From June 16 - June 20, you have access to 10% off sitewide. Find your roots. Add to your cart now.
*Family Packages are excluded from this sale.