Juneteenth is neither a holiday for congratulating white allies, nor is it a day for praising the American government. Juneteenth is a holiday for celebrating the possibility of Black liberation. Juneteenth is both a solemn acknowledgment of how slow progress can be and a hopeful recognition of how quickly change can manifest. Juneteenth is a Black celebration of a growing abundance of joy.
Juneteenth commemorates the general order that ended chattel slavery and simultaneously encoded a new social order that continues to inflict violence on Black Americans:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” (General Order №3 June 19th, 1865)
Our struggle for Black liberation continues to this day. This uprising is the culmination of our collective capacity and willingness to make change. The work we have done thus far is proof that we can manifest a greater degree of joy and liberation for Black folks. We are no longer entrapped by chattel slavery, but we still inherit its legacy of anti-black violence. As we collectively discover what kinds of violence we can put an end to in our lifetimes, it is imperative that we understand the stakes involved.
In our efforts towards Black liberation, we must be certain that we are not reinforcing the very systems that prevent us from becoming free. Whenever we train to dismantle those forms of violence that remain before us, we honor our ancestors’ legacy of struggle and resilience. There are multiple fronts to this battle against anti-blackness, and losing any one of those battles will cause us to lose all of them. We must treat our fight to end transphobic violence with equal importance to the end of state violence.
We undermine our own uprising against anti-black state violence when we neglect the Black people in our communities who exist at the intersection* of ableism, transphobia, misogynoir, homophobia, and organized abandonment**.
As we are all experimenting with various forms of leverage we can utilize to dismantle the state, we need to also be developing resources for Black folks who have always struggled to access the care and resources they need. We cannot celebrate the possibility of Black liberation when we are telling Black trans people that they don’t deserve to see the day we are all free.
We will never manifest Black liberation if we can’t help Black disabled folks survive until freedom day. This Juneteenth we remember that our goal is not to become cops ourselves. We are not trying to protect this capitalist system that runs on the wealth created by enslaved African ancestors. We want to build a collective power that can render cops and currency obsolete.
We are cultivating a growing possibility of liberation that can bring us into a world where all anti-black violence has become impossible. Juneteenth is a call for us to find the Black people who have been left behind, and figure out how we can all obtain joyful, livable lives.
In service of prison abolition and Black liberation:
1. Join / Create a transformative justice affinity group. Provide restorative justice support for survivors of assault. Develop intervention teams that are capable of confronting community members who inflict harm on Black folks.
2. Join / Create a care network for disabled and chronically ill Black folks in your community. Organize emergency response networks for folks with the greatest access needs.
3. Redistribute funds to Black folks who are the most vulnerable to violence. Support efforts to unionize workforces or transform businesses into co-ops. Organize with and for unhoused people in your community.
4. Proactively answer for harm that you’ve caused. Don’t wait for a callout. Learn from your actions and transform your behavior, without expecting forgiveness in return.
**Ruth Wilson Gilmore