Father’s Day or Juneteenth?
June 19, 2022
Father’s Day stirs mixed emotions.
On the one hand, I love being a father and always had. I became one quite early – I was only 20 when Elliott was born. I have loved every phase of fatherhood. Today, I have four living children and one with God. I’m grateful for all of them. Their personalities and life trajectories are quite different from one another, but I am proud of all of them. I love it when they call me. I love their expressions of love. I love who they are.
I honor my son Josh, who is probably the best father I’ve ever met. I hope his kids recognize that.
I also honor my own father, now passed these many years. He gave me unique gifts and insights. He was a Naval officer in WW2, an oceanographer, a marine ecologist, a university administrator, a skilled artist and woodworker/furniture maker, widely read, deeply educated, and good at most everything he did, from coaching baseball to gardening to building radios. He was quiet, introverted and deep. I miss him.
I’m also very aware of the many people who had absent, abusive, neglectful, emotionally distant, or disconnected fathers. I realize that Father’s Day is painful for them, that it stirs up horrible memories in some cases and inflicts deep pain.
So, this year, instead of Father’s Day, I celebrate a more worthy holiday – Juneteenth, African American Emancipation Day.
Slave owners in Texas chose to ignore President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863. Slaves in Texas had no idea that they were free until Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston on June 19, 1865 with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
General Granger issued “Order No. 3,” which read in part: “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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
President Biden made Juneteenth an official federal holiday on June 17, 2021 when he signed a bill Congress passed the previous day.
Between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America depriving the African continent of some of its healthiest and ablest people.
Slavery began in this country in 1619 when a privateer ship called The White Lion landed at the Jamestown Colony with 20 enslaved Africans. Throughout the 17th, 18th, and half of the 19th centuries, people stolen from Africa were forced to work land, much of which was stolen from Indigenous people.
Enslaved women were frequently raped; obedience was rewarded, and even perceived rebelliousness was brutally punished. A strict hierarchy among the enslaved (from privileged house workers and skilled artisans down to lowly field hands) helped keep slaves divided and less likely to organize against their masters.
Marriages between enslaved men and women had no legal basis, but many did marry and raise large families. Most owners of enslaved workers encouraged this practice because it added to their wealth. Many did not hesitate to divide families by sale or removal, however.
After emancipation, Jim Crow, black codes, red-lining, convict leasing, “war on drugs,” mass incarceration, and unabated white supremacy have prolonged oppression and inequality. No follower of Jesus can ignore that.
Yet, in spite of slavery, oppression, inequality, and racism, African Americans have given us a wealth of art, music, culture, inventions, and achievements. Most importantly, they have gifted us all with a deep spirituality and dedication to truly following the ways of Jesus. My African American friends are gifts from God to me. People like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others, are gifts to humanity.
All of us would do well to learn from them.
From Africa’s heart, we rose
Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose
Survive we must, we did,
We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew,
Dream, we did
Act we must