Juneteenth: A National Holiday


Today is the first nationally recognized, federal holiday commemorating Juneteenth, the day two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War despite some branches of the Confederate Army did not officially surrender until June. Juneteenth (originally known in some areas as Jubilee Day) had been commemorated in Texas officially since 1980, although celebrations had occured since 1866. Today’s holiday signed into law by President Joe Biden is called the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

It is thought of by many as the Second Independence Day. According to Gladys L. Knight in the Juneteenth entry of the Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Juneteenth is the “longest-running African American holiday.”

As the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and the Fourteenth recognizes the enslaved population as United States citizens, Juneteenth is equally important to their descendants. I firmly believe that all of us should be celebrating and commemorating Juneteenth the way we celebrate the 4th of July. The 4th commemorates our independence from the British, and Juneteenth commemorates those not included at that time despite their long standing contributions to the country’s advancement.

I see some controversy online and in the week’s news that Juneteenth is meant to replace July 4th and we should be “offended” by its declaration. That is not the case at all, and we should not let pettiness and bigotry get in the way of knowing our own history.

It is not anymore reasonable than suggesting that September 11th replaced our commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day. Or that Memorial, Veterans’, and Armed Forces Days are interchangeable. Each one represents a different aspect of our country’s past and observes its tragedy and its renewed purpose.

There is plenty of room in our calendars and our communities to commemorate the day that all of those enslaved Africans were free and became American citizens by virtue of their birth.

Take some time today to think about what the holiday represents, how meaningful it is, not only to African Americans, but to all Americans who value freedom and liberty.

For those who think we have too many holidays, and wonder: who’s next? I have a suggestion for you. Perhaps we should find a way to commemorate the first Americans, the Native Americans, those who cared for the land and lived valuable lives before the Europeans came to their continent and disrupted them, to put it mildly.

We, as a country have a lot to think about, and those thoughts and future decisions shouldn’t feel threatening to anyone in this country.

When I was growing up, it was a world of embracing the melting pot and the encouragement of learning the cultures that surround us in our lives, that aren’t our own, learning about our differences and relishing in how much we are alike.

We should all be able to celebrate African American freedom and the abolition of slavery. We should all want to celebrate that. What is there for us to celebrate that is more important than that?

Inspire. August.


August’s inspiration posts were delayed by the entire month, but I am determined that this post tonight at the latest. It is the last day of August and there is still inspiration to be had.

August began with my being sick, some days quite ill, and I went to the Department of Health to take a covid test, which fortunately came back negative.

We’re still receiving updates from my children’s school and they are almost ready to return; one virtually and one in an in-person hybrid model.

We also were able to take a much needed family vacation, which we understand is a privilege in these uncertain times. I credit that to many things, not the least of which is the seriousness that New York State took in combatting the coronavirus. We remained in New York, and that gave us the ability to travel and to do so without a fourteen day quarantine anywhere else we may have gone. It wasn’t our original plan, but we were all together and we had a great week.

I mention this because the one thing I want to share with you for the August inspire post is a museum that we visited that I would encourage everyone to visit. I will write more about it in later days, but here is a small glimpse:

The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is located at 825 West Depot Avenue West in Niagara Falls, New York. It has only been open for about two years, and was reopened on July 18th after Covid closures.

It is very reasonably priced: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors (62+), $6 for children 6-12, and Free for children 5 and under.

There is limited parking shared with the Amtrak station and it is on the Discover Niagara Shuttle, a free service in the city of Niagara Falls that operates May through October. They’ve recently reopened after Covid closures.

The Heritage Center is a beautiful balance of the heartbreak of slavery and escape from bondage and the people who helped them flee. It is at once inspiring and emotional. In one instant, a story caused me to weep while others made me feel joy at their new lives in Canada.

It is a small venue, but well worth the time. I would return again to enjoy the few things that were not available due to covid restrictions.

Inside the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. (c)2020
We are *this* close to freedom.
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. (c)2020



Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American Emancipation. It commemorates the day in 1865 in Texas that General Gordon Granger read the proclamation declaring that ALL SLAVES ARE FREE. While Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in his Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 with an effective date of January 1, 1863 that did not include border states not in rebellion or Texas where slaveowners moved to escape the fighting (unless these slaves escaped to non-slave states).

Now, they were all free with all the rights and privileges of all Americans (except of course for the reality of being Black in America in 1865). 

One year later, in 1866, Freedmen celebrated the first anniversary of Juneteenth in Texas.

Contending with whites only spaces that continued for too many years, many pooled their money to buy land of their own in order to congregate and celebrate. Emancipation Park in Houston, Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia, and Emancipation Park in Austin are three of these places.

While celebrated in several states as a recognized holiday or observance, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation is seeking an official designation of Juneteenth as an observation in all 50 states through Congress.

What is Juneteenth by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Juneteenth Holiday (from Vox)

Slate (from 2015): The Black American Holiday Everyone Should Celebrate But Doesn’t

Juneteenth Honors March to Freedom (from 2008)

From the television series, Black-ish:

Freedom and Facebook and Politics, Oh My


Before I write and post about my thoughts on the Jubilee of Mercy that began on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I wanted, no, needed to get this out of my system.

At some point, this will get back to my Facebook, and so I want to include this disclaimer for anyone who sees themselves in this screed.

This is not directed at any one person or any group of people. When I’ve seen these posts on my Facebook, they are from such a wide range of beliefs, political views, and religious affiliations that I started to see it as satire. The people who post these, I believe, are truly afraid of losing something. I honestly don’t understand it, but I know these people, and it saddens me to watch so many of them, not only posting these, but believing that they are true.

I can think of ten posts in the last two days that this might pertain to. For me, it might be a camel’s back sort of thing that pumped me up, so please do not be offended. And as usual, my disclaimer is longer than the entire thought.

As I moved from one marginalized group (Jewish) to another seemingly marginalized one (Catholic), I discovered the same thoughts of the presence of discrimination towards them. That isn’t to say that either group is wrong – in many ways we are all others to someone else, and when that happens we feel that. Although honestly, Christians are the least marginalized groups out there; of course unless you’re Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, African or Arab.

A lot of that stems from the attempts to include our various religions in our local (and national) government and the fact that many of us would prefer to keep it separate since you can’t possibly include everyone. For example, I’m okay with a decorated tree for the season, but I draw the line at a creche. (Yes, I still believe this even after my conversion.) A menorah, I’m on the fence about. As a Jewish person, the menorah is a religious symbol. When I taught preschool, and the kids made menorahs, mine were the only ones without a Star of David. I didn’t think sending home the Jewish star was appropriate, just like if a teacher sent home a crucifix as an art assignment for my children.

In all of the schools my kids attended, I’ve felt welcome and included for the most part. In our first school district, the school held an annual assembly – a holiday sing-a-long. I don’t recall if they called it holiday or Christmas, but it included more than Christmas songs. Most were secular, but they did throw in Silent Night and Away in a Manger in additon to Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The principal wore reindeer antlers and played the piano, and it was a wonderful, beautiful, small town in the city community gathering. I loved it, and after we changed school districts, we returned for that sing-a-long assembly for a couple of years after.

But recently, on my Facebook, and other places on the Internet that I usually ignore, there seems to be this thought of anti-Christian, anti-American bias that I’m just not seeing in reality.

Facebook does not suppress religious photos or patriotic photos. You’re not prohibited from saying Merry Christmas and G-d Bless America, so please, say it and post it to your heart’s content. Just please stop saying that you’re posting it in defiance of some imaginary Facebook TOS rule.

The Internet is indeed Real Life. When I started in 2008, there was that distinction. That line has been obliterated as we use our online presences for almost everything in our lives from communicating with our jobs and schools to holiday cards and birthday greetings. Online, offline, it is all part of us and our socializing in today’s world.

So, post your greetings whatever they might be. If I agree with them or like the cute picture of polar bears skiing, I’ll share it. Or I won’t. But posting it is not defiant. In fact, it is conforming and ordinary.

Creches and Nativity scenes. American flags and bald eagles. Religious posts, atheist posts. Wiccans and Solstice, Druidic prayers and Pope Francis’ words of wisdom.

Post them, don’t post them. Share them, don’t. I don’t care, (clearly I do, but really I don’t), but please stop telling me that Facebook cares what we post and will take it down so we must post three thousand American flags in a row or two thousand fifteen nativity scenes, not to mention that it’s still Advent – who is that in your manger?

No one is taking your guns. In fact, you’ve had more gun freedom under President Obama than the last two presidents (probably more than that).

He also is not taking too many vacation days. He’s used the least amount of vacation days of any president in this generation. We go to Long Island for Thanksgiving; he goes to Hawaii. That’s home.

He’s approved the least pardons.

He’s also Christian. Evangelical as a matter of fact.

Hillary Clinton might not be your cup of tea, but she’s not stupid and she didn’t murder an ambassador.

Do you know what I’ve been hearing at my church for the last couple of weeks? And not just from the priest and deacon, but from your run of the mill parishioners? Jesus and the Holy Family were refugees. Just like the Syrians. Except they were Jewish. Just like the ones we didn’t want and sent back in WWII. Escaping tyranny with only the clothes on their backs. Swaddling clothes in His case.

So play your Christmas carols, post your freedoms, but know that they’re not being taken away. Not sharing is not prohibiting. Saying Happy Holidays is inclusive, not EXclusive. It is for everyone – not so they’re not offended, but because we love them and they love us and they want to express that without getting a lecture on how they’re not Jewish or Christian or that they’re Wiccan and celebrate a secular Christmas, etc.

Christmas is about more than the birth of Christ. Advent and the Incarnation of Christ is in tandem with Lent and Easter. Christ is to be born in order to fulfill the prophecy that leads Him to Calvary and his Death so he can be born again. He dies for our sins, and is resurrected for our salvation.

But more than that, it is about what he said in John 13:34-35: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It’s so important that he repeats it in John 15:12. “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”

Season’s Greetings, Friends, and a Blessed and Happy New Year ❤