On a warm day in July of 1776, a document was signed that declared this nation's independence from the tyranny of the British government. Close to one hundred years later on another warm summer day, black Americans who had populated the same "free" nation for years prior as slaves were finally awarded the same freedom.
On this day in 1865 -- over two years after the Emancipation Proclaimation was signed, a general order was announced in Galveston, Texas indicating the end of the long and bloody civil war dividing the country. The order also called for the release of the close to 250,000 slaves in the state. This day of jubilee for those newly freed slaves became the day we know as Juneteeth.
Since that time, African Americans have used this time to commemorate the pain and triumph that came with years of captivity. While there is no doubt that American is deeply immersed in the shameful legacy of slavery (as much as people refuse to see that), there is much to celebrate. Now -- more than ever -- black Americans have considerable access to the same "American Dream" formerly reserved for whites. Even when only one state recognizes Juneteenth as a state holiday (Texas, for obvious reasons), the significance of the day will never be diminished.
Though I'll never be able to fully comprehend the anguish that came with bondage, I try to at least imagine the sheer joy that must have been the slaves as the document proclaiming their emancipation was finally enacted. Though it was long overdue and only truly recognized after the Civil Rights movement another 100 years later, the day was ours. We were officially declared a free people. That freedom has never been more apparent than it is today. The road for us to travel has been paved by the worn, calloused, and bloodied hands of those who came before us. We have hitched a ride to the new 'land of opportunity' on the whipped backs of our ancestors. For this reason, we owe it to those overworked and enslaved dreamers to not only remember their struggle, but to also seize every opportunity they have provided for us.
Today we have Juneteenth. But I'm also looking forward to the time where I can thank each and every one of them when we all meet in Glory.