By Liku Zelleke
Juneteenth is a day that is celebrated annually, on June 19th, to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.
On 19th June, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Tex.,, with news that the civil war had ended. He officially delivered General Order No. 3, which stated: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Congress officially recognized the day as Juneteenth Independence Day in 1997.
This years’ commemoration was held at a burial ground in New York which was the final resting place for hundreds of African slaves.
The keynote speaker at the event was Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X. In a speech that was warmly accepted and appreciated by the audience, she asked that African Americans not forget their history.
She said, “We’re in denial of the African holocaust. Most times, people don’t want to talk about it. One is often restless or termed a racist just for having compassion for the African experience, for speaking truth to the trans-Atlantic and Arab slave trades, for speaking truth to the significant omission of our history. We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them. But we have to.”
Shabazz went on to add that understanding the role of slavery in the shaping of the modern world was a way of paying homage to the ancestors of all African Americans.
“As we share in a discussion of civil rights, we must reflect on their sacrifices and contributions of their lives,” Shabazz said, “The struggle is not over. The struggle continues.”
Talking about her father’s legacy she said, “Malcolm taught … the truth that our history did not begin in slavery but that our ancestors, refined and industrious African men and women, were the architects of great civilizations.”
After the speech, everyone stood for a moment of silence while Shabazz read off a list of names that included the Queen of Sheba, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King and her father, highlighting the long and global history of Africans.
The place where the ceremony was held, the African Burial Ground National Monument in downtown Manhattan, is a colonial-era cemetery where more than 400 men, women and children of African descent are buried. The burial site for the mostly enslaved Africans was discovered in the 1992s during an excavation.
At the site’s dedication ceremony in 2007, Dr. Maya Angelou said, “You may bury me in the bottom of Manhattan, I will rise. My people will get me. I will rise out of the huts of history’s shame.”