Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Juneteenth Recognized As State Holiday After Years Of Being Ignored

06/18/22 11:20 AM By John Reurink

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 06/17/2022) While the country is set to recognize Juneteenth on Saturday, celebrating the complete end of slavery in the United States, one might find that five years ago Juneteenth resolutions were nonexistent in the Michigan Legislature.


On Thursday, the Michigan Senate adopted SR 155 by Sen. Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit) – the chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus – to recognize Juneteenth. The holiday has been recognized as the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration to the conclusion of slavery in the U.S.


"Observing Juneteenth is about the journey of perseverance and achievement of Black America. We are not the only group of people burdened with adversity, however, Black people have been through a very horrific period in U.S. history of sanctioned slavery and oppression," Bullock said on the Senate floor during Thursday.


He said despite it all, the country's Black community has continued to overcome their odds, hardships and intentional disadvantages and disparities.


"Prejudice, bigotry and just pure hatred," Bullock said. "So this is our story of resiliency, pride and determination that will always be of historical and spiritual importance. It serves us to understand that together, we can overcome all obstacles in our path, and that we are all responsible for tomorrow – directly and indirectly."


During 1865, the people of Texas were informed that all slaves were free, marking the state as the final member of the Confederacy to have slavery abolished.


Union General Gordon Granger – an American Civil War military officer – informed the residents that in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham LINCOLN, former masters and slaves were to have "absolute equality of rights and rights of property" and "the connection heretofore existing between them become that between employer and hired laborer."


As individuals across the country and throughout Michigan dive into a three-day weekend, MIRS looked at the Michigan Legislature's records of resolutions with "Juneteenth" written in them.


In June 2015, former Highland Park Sen. Bert Johnson introduced a Juneteenth resolution near the end of the month – and after being placed on the order of resolutions in October of that year, it was never adopted.


There were also no Juneteenth resolutions officially introduced during the 2017 and 2018 Legislature, nor 10 years ago during the 2011 and 2012 Legislature.


In total, there have been 14 Juneteenth resolutions to exist between both chambers in the last 23 years.


For Rev. Kevin HARRIS, the senior pastor at the Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit and the board president of Michigan Liberation, this year's progression "means as a country, we're continuing to move toward more enlightenment about ourselves."


This year is the second year that Juneteenth Day of Observance has been recognized through a proclamation signed by President Joe Biden.


"The celebration of this Juneteenth – it's been a long time coming. But I think there's an old doctrine that talks about how we're always moving toward the perfecting of our union. We do understand that slavery was a fault line that this country was built on, and if you're talking about moving toward the perfecting of the union, you've got to heal all wounds," Harris said.


According to a nationwide assessment conducted through Brainly, a digital homework assistance platform, 53% of middle and high school students indicated that they do not presently discuss Juneteenth in their schools.


Simultaneously, 60% displayed having a basic understanding or a general idea around the origins of Juneteenth.


When the question of Juneteenth being hidden in the history textbooks was raised, Harris said the realistic answer is that the U.S. hasn't cared about issues to the extent of celebrating the holiday previously.


"The overall attitude is that we should assimilate and then we do – and we have – and we berate the Fourth of July and we celebrate the freedoms of this country," he said. "There are many folks in the Black community who were not necessarily aware of what they need to do."


DaeSean ASHBY graduated from Central Michigan University with a Master of Arts degree in political science and government during May 2019. Afterward, the Detroit native came to Lansing to serve as a policy advisor within the Legislature.


He said every Jan. 1, his grandmother goes out to recite the Emancipation Proclamation in celebration of the 1863 freedom of Black people.


However, as a Black man very ingrained in the culture and its literature, Ashby said he doesn't think he's ever heard his grandmother even talk about Juneteenth until not too long ago.


"On the one hand, it's really helpful to finally see Juneteenth getting recognized as essentially Black Americans Independence Day, because on July 4, 1776, Black people weren't free," he said. "But it's also kind of like a bittersweet kind of thing, because this week was the same week of the Jan. 6 hearings, and we're seeing videos of rioters at the U.S. Capitol having Confederate flags next to American flags, which is an oxymoron in itself."


He said as a young Black man in politics surrounded, for the majority of the time, by non-Black people, he's surrounded each day by various sorts of microaggressions.


Additionally, he expressed that both liberal and conservative individuals have challenged him when he tries to illustrate how something could have racial implications.


This weekend, however, is going to be about reflection for Ashby – a time to think about what this means for present-day Black residents, his ancestors and the things that "(inhibit) our progress."


"I think it's important, especially for Black people who are going to celebrate Juneteenth, to just be in a space where you feel like you can be you and celebrate," he said.


Editor's Note: In recognition of Juneteenth, MIRS will not publish an edition Monday and its offices will be closed. We will restart our regular production schedule Tuesday, June 21.