Growing up in school, I remember I had a pretty good knowledge of, and fascination with, history. I remember learning about the Boston Tea Party in 1773, the Civil War from 1861-1865, the Roaring 20s followed by The Great Depression in 1929, trench warfare during World War I, and so many other events throughout history. I also remember as a child always celebrating the 4th of July at my aunt’s house in Monroe, GA. It was my favorite holiday at the time because my aunt would always buy the kids a blow-up pool to swim in. Growing up, I learned about the history of July 4th and our independence as a country. I was taught how to be patriotic and how to be a proud American citizen.
Going back to learning about the Civil War, I knew quite a few things about African American history, including slavery, the three-fifths compromise in 1787, the abolishment of slavery, and ultimately the civil rights movement. But it wasn’t until 2015 that I discovered Juneteenth and that there was an actual African American Independence Day. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed January 1, 1863 to free all slaves, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that all enslaved throughout the country would officially be free. Learning about Juneteenth blew my mind; knowing that there are people throughout the country that celebrate this day enlightened me and motivated me to want to learn and celebrate as well.
I am a proud Black man who is in love with the history and the culture of African Americans. There’s a saying, “you won’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been,” and I take pride in the history of my African American ancestors who have worked to pave the way so that I can be here, celebrating and embracing them and their achievements. I am proud to be an American, but I am even more proud to be an African American. This is why I celebrate Juneteenth. #IAmTheChange