On Saturday, we celebrate Juneteenth—a commemoration of the official ending of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas. The last of the enslaved must have felt overwhelming emotions upon learning of their freedom—including joy for the end of their long-fought battle and fear of the unknown future. Juneteenth is certainly a time for celebration, but as we think of how far we have come in 156 years, we must also reflect on the journey—both good and bad—and how much work is still left.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, where White mobs attacked and murdered residents while burning Black neighborhoods and businesses to the ground in the Oklahoma city. It may seem that the impacts of that massacre would have no real bearing today, but the truth is they do—just as the effects of slavery still linger. Thriving businesses and neighborhoods, as well as the opportunity for families to create generational wealth for their descendants, were all destroyed in a matter of two days. What would Tulsa—or other communities that were similarly destroyed—look like for its Black inhabitants today, had the massacre never occurred? How would Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street”—or other similar neighborhoods across the Nation, such as Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia—fair today without the detrimental impacts of Jim Crow laws or other racist actions? No one can say for certain, but the argument can be made that there would be a significant difference. These riots changed the landscape for Black America and have even shaped many successful Black CEOs today.
Whether it be reflecting on slavery, the Tulsa riots, or housing inequities that still exist today, one thing that is for certain is that Black Americans have a spirit of perseverance, despite facing adversity for hundreds of years. So, what are ways REALTORS® can learn and celebrate on this holiday? Below are a few tips:
- Read more on the history of Juneteenth.
- Start a conversation about Juneteenth with your family, friends, and/or colleagues.
- Watch “High on the Hog”, a Netflix docuseries that details how African and Black American cuisine inspired many of the foods we know and love today. One episode of the series discusses Juneteenth and the history of Black cowboys and barbecue in Texas.
- Intentionally buy from Black businesses on Saturday, June 19th.
For additional ideas to celebrate this day, check out 25 Ideas to Help You Celebrate Juneteenth.
Click here to send any comments or questions about this piece to Virginia REALTORS® Senior Vice President of Community and Industry Relations Leslie Frazier.