Juneteenth

I’m on the plane heading home from Dallas and looking forward to a quiet evening with Janet. It has been a hectic 24 hours – the way it always is when I make the quick trip to Dallas each month. I tried a different hotel this time – one that I walked out of about a year ago – but it has been upgraded and really turned out to be quite nice. In fact, I am told that it has the largest club level area in the country; when you are on the road as much as I am, it’s nice to have some place other than your room to just chill out and enjoy the evenings.

In fact, it was much more relaxing than what I am experiencing right now. I didn’t get upgraded to first class, so I am in coach; and I am in a row where everyone else has brought on carry-on food that smells to high heaven. If I hadn’t already chosen my topic for today, I would be writing about an aroma that was not pleasing to God. And I’m not kidding. In fact, the smell from the woman sitting next to me is almost more than I can bear. Some sort of curry shrimp garlic pepper celery mayonaise spread that she is slathering on Ritz crackers. I actually turned off the air conditioning above my head and pointed it back at her so I can keep as much of the smell away as I can. I just don’t understand why people do these things – it just seems to defy common courtesy and social grace. I’m going to guess that she doesn’t see anything wrong with this, or simply doesn’t know any better.

Anyway, back to the story. When I awoke this morning, I looked at my watch and realized that it is June 19th today. Normally, that wouldn’t mean anything to me, but several weeks ago, I was walking through the kitchen of the cafeteria and I happened to run into two people discussing a particular “holiday” – Juneteenth. The person speaking about it seemed very well informed and was chiding her co-worker on not knowing the meaning of the day. I mention this on purpose because today is that day and I never studied it or even heard of it before my encounter several weeks ago.

Basically, it is the African American celebration of the emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War. Now before I go any further, I should tell you that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863. I should also let you know that there was no rush for word to get to the deep south that slavery was officially over. Furthermore, let’s face it, slaves, especially from the very southern regions of the country, had nowhere to go to live out a life of freedom. There was no work and the south was rebuilding.

Anyway, on June 18th and 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX with the news that the slaves were free. The reaction ranged from shock to outright jubilation, with many former slaves throwing their old clothes in rivers and streams, raiding the closets of their former masters in order to get dressed in finery for the celebration of the good news. Initially, the events of the day took on great importance. Families celebrated with a host of outdoor activities including barbecues, games, fishing and church services. Prayers were offered in thanksgiving to God for rescuing the slaves and delivering them to freedom.

Eventually, the celebration of the day declined and experienced something of a resurgence in the 60’s, but this time, there were mixed reviews on the date. Some folks thought the problems of racial equality and Juneteenth were at odds with each other. They didn’t wanted to be reminded of life before emancipation. But, eventually, the day once again enjoyed a place of prominence and in 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize the day as a holiday. Ironic that I’m in Texas today, don’t you think? And by the way, I didn’t even hear the day mentioned during my entire visit.

While several public radio stations have made the announcement across the country today, Google didn’t even recognize it with one of their special stylized logos on their website this morning. So what should we think? Why isn’t the date more popular? I know for a fact that many African Americans have never even heard of it.

But that doesn’t diminish God’s intent that He created us all – in His image. There is some historical and biblical evidence that the sons of Adam gave rise to the diverse physical and cultural differences the world has today. And I can’t tell you for sure if this is true. But the fact remains that God doesn’t show partiality. In the first book of the Bible, we are told, in Gen. 1:27, ” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And that’s all there is to it.

My encouragement today is to recognize and appreciate the differences we have while understanding that it was God’s intent that we all get along. My prayer is that someday there won’t be a need to celebrate “black” or “white” holidays and that we will eventually live in the peace that transcends understanding when Christ returns to reign through all eternity. Have a great day in the Lord. Grace and peace…

 
 
 
 

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