18 Jun 2004 Project 21 Press Release: Black Activist Group Celebrates “Juneteenth” With Call for Black Self-Empowerment
In recognition of the 138th celebration of Juneteenth, members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are calling upon black Americans to shake off the shackles of dependency and “victim mentality.” Juneteenth, observed on June 19, is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in America.
“The knowledge gained on June 19, 1865 symbolized newly-acquired freedom,” notes Project 21 member Gregory Parker. “On June 19, 2004, let us – as a people – acquire freedom from the victim mentality that stifles our progress.”
Juneteenth commemorates the arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. The soldiers carried with them the news of the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery two-and-a-half years earlier. The anniversary of this day became a stabilizing and motivating presence for African-Americans facing the uncertainties associated with their newfound freedom. Today, Juneteenth celebrations carry themes of empowerment and achievement. Juneteenth is an officially-recognized holiday in Texas, and celebrations will take place in 156 cities and 37 states nationwide this year. President George W. Bush is also expected to issue an official message of commemoration.
Reflecting on the intent of Juneteenth celebrations in relation to the current state of black America, Project 21 member Reverend Steve Craft asserts there are still too many people who refuse to embrace the opportunities now readily available to all Americans regardless of their race or ethnicity. Craft says: “Morally, we should be free, but in our minds, we still feel oppressed. The white man is not responsible for holding us back, it is our own minds that are responsible for holding us back.”
Parker adds that the negative attitudes stigmatizing black America often originate from the messages of those who consider themselves leaders of the black community. “The strides we have made are great. And while we are not as far as we would have hoped, leaders such as Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton would have you believe we as a people are still locked in 1960.”
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.