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Celebrating Juneteenth at My Missouri Prison

by Cathy Brown
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This story was originally published by Jail Journalism Venture. Jail Journalism Venture trains incarcerated writers to turn out to be journalists and publishes their tales.

I didn’t study Juneteenth till after I got here to jail. Being incarcerated made me wish to study extra in regards to the historical past of slavery on this nation. Most of what I’ve realized is unhappy, nevertheless it’s serving to me perceive the current higher.

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of African American slaves within the U.S. Whereas President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves free on Jan. 1, 1863, halfway by the Civil Warfare “it couldn’t be applied in locations nonetheless beneath Accomplice management,” particularly the westernmost Accomplice states, till years later, in accordance with the National Museum of African-American History & Culture.

On June 19, 1865, Union troops made it to that westernmost territory in Galveston Bay, Texas, and freed greater than 250,000 Black folks within the state. That’s why we have a good time Juneteenth immediately.

Whereas many Black of us have celebrated the vacation for dozens of a long time, Juneteenth has seen elevated recognition nationwide for the reason that 2020 homicide of George Floyd and the ensuing protests. In 2021, President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal vacation.

Juneteenth’s notability in my Missouri jail is a combined bag. In early June, I went by my housing unit and requested a number of inmates what Juneteenth meant to them.

Folks between 19 and 27 years previous hadn’t actually studied the significance of this present day, and it took a few of them some time to mirror on what it actually meant.

These 35 and older, who’ve been in jail lengthy sufficient to check Juneteenth, consider nothing has actually modified. Whereas we don’t have the identical type of slavery immediately, 38% of the nation’s incarcerated inhabitants is Black, even if Black folks make up simply 12% of the overall inhabitants. On prime of that, a number of states nonetheless don’t pay for work inside prisons or pay cents on the dollar — which is indentured servitude, or slavery by one other identify, as some name it.

It’s my perception that enslaved Black folks gave blood, sweat and tears to make sure we have now a future they might solely dream of getting. Juneteenth permits me to mirror on the resilience of my ancestors who first lived on this nation and on everybody who died attempting to outlive.

Now I’m ready as a jail journalist to make use of my voice to get the reality out, whether or not it’s in regards to the situations of incarceration or educating of us about Juneteenth.

We have now to be sincere in regards to the previous to repair our damaged nation. Racism was a realized and taught habits that was perpetuated over centuries. White folks must rectify the wrongs of slavery with honesty and understanding. Then the therapeutic course of can actually start.

This article first appeared on Prison Journalism Project and is republished right here beneath a Artistic Commons license.

Source / Picture: thecrimereport.org

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