BNC Juneteenth: Remembering the past, honoring the present and preparing for the future
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JUNE 18: A view of signage at the Juneteenth 'Celebration of Truth' Community Festival hosted by Black News Channel in Atlanta's Historic Castleberry Hill neighborhood on June 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Black News Channel)
Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the day the last enslaved Black Americans in the Confederate state of Texas were declared free, is being celebrated from coast to coast. BNC brought viewers stories with historical perspectives, live events and the political impact this federal holiday has on the nation.
The story of Juneteenth begins with the 16th President Abraham Lincoln, who tried to unify the North and South. After signing the Emancipation Proclamation, the message and news of freedom didn’t immediately reach the enslaved people in Texas. BNC’s Kelly Wright, co-host of The World Tonight, spoke to Tommy Boudreau about the history of Juneteenth. Boudreau’s great-great-grandmother was enslaved, and she serves as the Chair of the Galveston Historical Foundation’s African American Committee.
Honoring the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Opal Lee
Opal Lee is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” for her dedication to making it a priority to march thousands of miles each year in celebration of emancipation. The 94-year-old stood beside President Joe Biden when he signed the measure into law, making Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. BNC correspondent Nerissa Knight spoke with Lee about her activism and her decades-long fight for the holiday’s recognition.
Celebrating Black businesses in Castleberry Hill
The town of Castleberry Hill in Georgia has the highest concentration of Black landowners in the United States. As part of BNC’s Juneteenth celebration, we highlighted the power of Black business and its influence on communities. BNC correspondent Aiyana Cristal told the history of Castleberry Hill and spoke to business owners in the area who said the industrial neighborhood has transformed into a hub for successful Black businesses.
Multiple vendors were present at BNC’s “Celebration of Truth” Juneteenth event, including Flush Studios, Divine Arte Online, Nude Coco, Blessed Beauty by Aisha, Thompson Brothers BBQ, Jerk Brothers ATL, Lemonade Smashers, Nickoli Wade Arts, Mokipops, PicMe Photobooth and the Atlanta Falcons Drumline, presented by the South Dekalb Drumline. BNC correspondent Aiyana Cristal spoke with business owners in Castleberry Hill about the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses.
Juneteenth celebrations in Texas
Texas plays an important role in the history of Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they were free. The historic menus with the state’s foods have essential meanings to commemorate Freedom Day. BNC correspondent Nerissa Knight took a look at the cultural symbolism in the crimson cuisine.
Knight also spoke to Linda Berry Mallory, the daughter of the late Merdine Berry. Her family temporarily lost their 100-acre property, and the case was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. The land was originally owned by Berry’s great-great-grandparents, who were freed after being enslaved. Now, the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration in Texas is a reminder of how Black Americans who gained freedom were often cheated out of land ownership.
In Memphis, Tennessee, Telisa Franklin has organized the Freedom and Heritage Fest in a park where a leader of the Ku Klux Klan was buried. She joined BNC Live with Laverne McGee to discuss the significance of teaching future generations the importance of the location. “We needed a move for healing because if truly we are going to move forward, we to move forward with freedom of mind, body and soul,” she said.
Juneteenth and employee rights
Now that Juneteenth has been designated as a federal holiday, many are wondering what states will do and what protocol will exist in the workplace. BNC Chief Legal Correspondent Dr. Laura McNeal joined BNC Live with Laverne McGee and she said only six states pay workers for the Juneteenth holiday. Employees in the remaining 44 states are not guaranteed to get compensated.
BNC host Tashanea Whitlow also spoke to employment law attorney and mediator Angela Reddock-Wright to clarify corporate practices for federal holidays.
Remembering America’s dark past
As Juneteenth is a time to celebrate freedom for formerly enslaved Black Americans, it is also a somber reminder of America’s dark past. Efforts to share the true history of the country are being challenged across the country through legislation, but in Louisiana, the true accounts of slavery are being shared with thousands of people from around the world. BNC correspondent Jamiese Price visited the Whitney Plantation Museum in Wallace, Louisiana. She spoke with Dr. Joy Banner, a descendent of formerly enslaved Black Americans who once worked on the plantation.
Celebrations of Juneteenth as a national holiday come 100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre, where a white mob killed hundreds of Black Americans who successfully built a prospering area known as Black Wall Street. While many gather to celebrate freedom, in Greenwood, the locals are continuing their efforts to rebuild the thriving Black district destroyed by hate.
A resounding theme for the Juneteenth holiday is learning from the past while continuing forward for the future. Many hope that the nation will take this as a learning opportunity to make progress in the fight for social justice. Donna Dean, the president of BlackOwned.com, joined BNC Live with Laverne McGee to talk about the importance of teaching children about Juneteenth and the continued fight for racial equality.
If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.
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