James Morton

Today, June 19th is Juneteenth Day. It is a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved men and women – not slaves; our ancestors were not born as slaves; they were born as human-being.  They were men and women brought to this country in chains, sold as chattel, separated from family and loved ones, forced to labor for free, denied basic decencies afforded others, beaten and lynched at the hence of discontent, dehumanized and demoralized, robbed of language, culture, and history, and humiliated for the entertainment of others.

And so, when on June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger read federal orders proclaiming all “slaves” in Texas were free – imagine the jubilation and joy in that moment. Imagine the uncertainty and fear for what tomorrow might bring. Imagine the hope for what tomorrow might bring.

Today, especially today in these awakened times, we must think about what was in the hearts and minds of our ancestors. We must not forget their pain and suffering or their subjection to slavery and all its manifestations. We must not be lulled into thinking that we, as Black Americans, are free from the throes of slavery – we are not. We have not been granted full access to all the constitutional, political, and economic benefits guaranteed to us as Americans. That said, we cannot and must not forget the trials and tribulations of our ancestors; we must not forget our history of neglect and nullification. We must remember those who died toiling in the fields and those who died fighting for our freedom.

Let us celebrate Juneteenth Day as the beginning of the journey toward full emancipation! A journey that continues for Black Americans. Let us be what our ancestors could only dream of being.

Yours in love and hope,

James Morton, Esquire
YMCA of Greater Boston