Summer Owens Juneteenth

Yesterday, for the first time in history, Americans across the country honored Juneteenth as a national holiday.

For years, many African Americans have celebrated the momentous occasion which commemorates the day in 1865 when former American slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of President Abraham Lincoln’s Jan. 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War.

My Trip to Ghana

Last January I had the amazing opportunity to spend two weeks in Accra, Ghana. I had beautiful expericens from speaking to students in the village of Kumasi and visiting the University of Ghana to enjoying nightlife on the rooftop of the Sky Bar and braving the Canopy Walk.

But the hardest and most emotional experience of the entire trip was my time at Cape Coast Castle.

From Captivity to Slavery to Freedom

As I stood staring at the female and male cells including the Female Slave Dungeon where women were raped and impregnated, my heart broke for my ancestors who endured the unimaginable.  As we stood on the ground floor of the castle, the guide explained that we were standing on the blood and flesh of many of our ancestors who died in the castle. And above us was the level of the castle where those who captured the slaves held…CHURCH and worshipped God.

Finally, we were led to the Door of No Return. As I looked out that door, I pictured the African people who were chained together and led to ships where they would be sent away from their home never to return. And neither would most of their ancestors. The slavery, the oppression, the bondage…the captivity would continue for decades.

And finally, at least a declaration of freedom.

Honoring Juneteenth

While recognized by the African-American community for more than 150 years, all of America must now recognize the importance of June 19 for all of our history. We have made progress, significant progress, since Aficans first came to this county. But we still have far to go in addressing the structural and systemic racism in America that keeps the decescents of enslaved Africans from being completely free.

So today and going forward, I challenge all Americans to reflect on the history of Africans in America, the resilience of our ancestors, and honor and celebrate the contributions of those people who were brought here, and the amazing opportunity to continue making progress towards liberty and justice for all.

Happy Juneteenth!

Shout out to my mom for making me this cute crochet top that was perfect for the Juneteenth wedding of my awesome friend, Andrew Bailey to his bride and my soror, Zaneta.