Walks, barbecues, music and speeches, the United States celebrated, Saturday, June 19, “Juneteenth”, anniversary of the end of slavery in this country, now a holiday, one year after the death of George Floyd.
His murder sparked a grassroots movement against racism and police brutality against African Americans in the United States and beyond. The mobilization helped, among other things, to considerably strengthen the visibility of “Juneteenth”, which many Americans, including African Americans, were unaware of even two years ago.
A contraction of the words “June” and “19” in English, this date marks the day when the last slaves on an island in Texas learned, on June 19, 1865, that they were free. “Juneteenth” has remained as the milestone date for the emancipation of African Americans. And on Thursday, US President Joe Biden passed a law making June 19 a national holiday, 156 years later.
Festive occasion since 1866, “Juneteenth” is even more so this year because it is also the first national event celebrated without health restrictions, most of the measures still in force to fight against the pandemic due to the coronavirus having been lifted in recent weeks .
Hundreds of people gathered in Washington
Hundreds of events were planned across the United States, from New York to Los Angeles via the Texas island of Galveston, considered the symbolic place of “Juneteenth”.
In Washington, several hundred people have celebrated the anniversary by dancing on the avenue leading to the White House, renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, since the monster anti-racist protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Kevin Blanks, 29-year-old black educator, came on Saturday to speak out against racism “Still far too anchored in the DNA of this country”. Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Harriet Tubman… on his t-shirt are listed the names of so many emblematic figures of the fight for the emancipation of black people in the United States.
“Our ancestors fought so hard”, abounds Danique McGuire, 51, who ensures that ” The way is still long “ before African Americans were truly free in the United States.
A poll released Tuesday by the Gallup Institute still showed that 28% of Americans do not “Knew nothing” de « Juneteenth ».
A bill to guarantee wide access to the vote under discussion
“It’s a bit surreal to celebrate [cette journée] as we fight against national attacks ” targeting the right to vote for minorities, however, tweeted Sharif Street, a local black senator from Pennsylvania.
Between January and May, fourteen US states, including Georgia and Florida, passed laws restricting voting opportunities, measures interpreted as aimed at reducing the voting influence of minorities, especially the black community. For Sharif Street, it is “A reminder that our victories are not final, even when it comes to powerful symbols of progress” like the right to vote.
A bill to guarantee wide access to the vote is currently under discussion in the Senate, but its fate seems very uncertain because many elected Republicans are opposed to it.
For Farah Louis, a black city councilor in New York, the proclamation of “Juneteenth” as a public holiday and the momentum given by the post-Floyd movement offers ” an opportunity “ to the black community. “You have to beat the iron while it is hot”, she said, referring in particular to the debate on “Repairs”, compensating African Americans for the devastation caused by slavery.
On Friday, the mayors of eleven American cities, including Los Angeles and Denver, pledged to pay, as such, compensation to representatives of the black community, urging the national government and Congress to imitate them.