19 Jun 2009 Black Conservatives Warn of Threat to Continued Freedom on “Juneteenth” Civil Rights Holiday
Washington, D.C. – On the occasion of “Juneteenth,” the oldest and most recognized annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, members of the Project 21 black leadership network suggest the civil rights-themed holiday be used to celebrate freedoms that have been won and as a warning of how easily freedom can be threatened by an overbearing government.
Project 21 members have called attention to the Juneteenth since 1999, urging black Americans to use Juneteenth to embrace their inherent talents and strengthen their ties with family and community.
Now, when the Obama Administration and Congress are increasing government intervention into the lives of all Americans, Project 21 members suggest that people reflect upon how this expansion of power can reduce the threaten individual freedom.
“The liberties we enjoy today came at a tremendous cost and after a lot of suffering,” said Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli. “Today historically marks the day of the opening of the door to opportunity for blacks to seek ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ We should take advantage of this liberty to strive to improve our lives and build upon the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom.”
“It’s important to remember that Juneteenth is rooted in our achieving our freedom. It is the growth of an activist government intent on regulating most — if not all — aspects of our lives that is now threatening that freedom,” said Project 21 member Bishop Council Nedd II. “There’s a lot at risk should politics be allowed to take precedence over the protection of individual rights. Environmental regulations, for instance, already substantially affect private property rights and the ability for many to conduct legitimate business. Just think of what might happen to our independence if we are forced to rely on a partisan government for health care, to determine if we can buy a car or how we can worship without offending perceived sensibilities? This is something we need to consider as we mark Juneteenth this year.”
Project 21 member Ak’bar Shabazz added: “As our nation advances rapidly away from embracing personal responsibility towards government protection and oversight, we should keep in mind that these freed slaves wanted only the opportunity to be free and control their own destinies. Their attitudes towards freedom contrasts greatly from today, as many people look for more government control over their lives.”
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the June 19, 1865 arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas. The soldiers carried the news that the Civil War was over and that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had abolished slavery two-and-a-half years earlier.
The annual commemoration became known as Juneteenth and quickly became a stabilizing as well as motivating presence in the lives of black Americans in Texas, who faced many uncertainties associated with newly-acquired freedom. The observance quickly spread from Texas to be recognized across the United States.
Juneteenth is celebrated in many ways, but education and self-improvement have been consistent themes at commemorative community gatherings and picnics in recent years. In 1980, Juneteenth was made an official holiday in Texas. According to the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign, 25 states currently recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.