Members of Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church march to celebrate Juneteenth on June 19, 2021, in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth marks the emancipation of enslaved African American people in the United States, and the Juneteenth National Independence Day became the 12th legal federal holiday signed on June 17, 2021. (Photo by Go Nakamura / Getty Images)
I was so excited last year when it was declared that June 19 became a federal holiday officially known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.
But all remained quiet here in Rio Rancho, N.M. I didn’t see announcements from our mayor or any other city officials. There didn’t appear to be anything going on at our schools that encouraged children to remember this important day for African Americans.
It was on June 19 that Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas, back in 1865 with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved people were free.
This holiday is important to me and to our African American community, because it signifies our new beginning. We were not free on the largely celebrated July Fourth holiday, which started in 1777. You see, freedom for us would not come until 88 years after that, and therefore it is so very important for Juneteenth to be recognized and celebrated across the United States as a whole.
I am not sure when we got into the business of local city officials picking and choosing which holidays they would like to celebrate for our communities, which are so rich in diversity. This selectiveness does not express the inclusion we fight for still today.
All citizens of Rio Rancho deserve to be seen, heard, honored and celebrated. I have seen excitement swirling around the upcoming July Fourth festivities, but again, small marketing efforts have gone into advertising Rio Rancho’s first Juneteenth event — which is a year late.
This weekend, on June 17, 2022, the city and the local NAACP branch will host Rio Rancho’s inaugural Juneteenth Freedom Day. I am very pleased that this is happening, however, I have seen nothing on Mayor Greggory Hull’s page promoting the event. This saddens me, as I certainly have seen many other events posted and advertised on the mayor’s page. This includes our past Memorial Day, and he even wished everyone a happy Cinco de Mayo.
When anyone ignores this holiday, they ignore us. When cities pick and choose which holidays will be celebrated and uplifted, they are practicing blatant exclusion and telling our citizens that, essentially, they are not important and that they do not matter.
Rio Rancho is now 3% African American and counting. We live in our communities, pay our taxes, and Juneteenth is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to much-needed change here in our city.
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