After President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a national holiday in 2021, it is now being recognized and celebrated with parades, parties and events across the country.
On this week’s “In Focus SoCal”, host Tanya McRae spoke to Los Angeles County supervisor, Holly Mitchell, who has been a driving force behind recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth in the city. She says that it’s not a "Black holiday," but an important marker in our country’s history that all Americans should celebrate.
"It’s a part of American history that's integrated into the core fabric of who we are," she said. "If we don't know our history, we're bound to make the same mistakes again. So it's important that we acknowledge that it's American history, not deny it, and make sure that it's taught in schools, and adults are familiar with it as well.”
Mitchell also noted that when we think about what Juneteenth means today, a big part of it is righting historic wrongs. And this is something that’s being addressed by the state’s Reparations Task, and most recently in LA County with the return of Bruce's Beach in Manhattan Beach, which was taken from Charles and Willa Bruce in 1929 under the auspices of eminent domain.
"I was proud to join with my colleague on the Board of Supervisors, Janice Hahn and State Sen. Steve Bradford to figure out a way in which government could right that fundamental wrong," Mitchell said. "And we've done that. The descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce, the Bruce family, will actually own that land again. And the work of the Reparations Task Force has really given thoughtful academic consideration to how we talk about rebuilding multi-generational wealth that was robbed from [Black] people who were abused and used for free labor far too long."
McRae went to check the annual Natural-WE Community Juneteenth Celebration held at the New Providence Baptist Church in South LA. Founder and Executive Director T.J. Robinson created Natural-WE Community to be a nonprofit that provides programs, services and events that will empower, celebrate, uplift and progress Black people and people of African descent.
"This is a golden opportunity to move past performative justice," said Robinson regarding honoring Juneteenth. "So OK, yes, you’re going to honor the holiday. But what are you going to do aside from that? You can support Black businesses and nonprofits in a true and genuine manner. For everyone who truly says that everyone deserves to be free, truly act in that freedom and truly honor that.”
"In Focus" also visited the Alma Reaves Woods public library in Watts, where librarian Charlene Nichols came up with the idea of a crafts project to help explain the concept of slavery — and the end of it — in a way that children could understand.
Nichols had the kids make a chain with paper links, where each link represents a barrier to equal treatment under the law. Then the kids destroy the chain to restore freedom, justice and equality.
"I hope after doing this activity, that children can think about the things that they want to do and how they are free to do those things," she said. "To break their chains, that breaking their chains and being free is important and amazing. And that it was terrible that it ever was any other way for any other person."
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