Where Freedom Begins

Holidays are most important to students. Not that everyone actually celebrated the essence of the holiday, but it was a day off from school. It meant more time with family and friends and less stress from class activities. I remember back in high school when the teacher announced a holiday for the next day and everyone was so happy. It was Juneteenth and our school that time decided to suspend the classes but required us to attend a half-day event instead. Except for a handful of people, most of those in class didn’t know what it was so the teacher had to give a brief explanation of its history and did a small speech about freedom. And in the midst of the pre-celebration screams and chatter about their plans for the next day, this class-clown slash philosopher classmate of ours suddenly blurted out the words that silenced the entire class: “Are we really free?”

This year will be the 153rd celebration of Juneteenth. Originally celebrated from Galveston, Texas where it all began, it is now being commemorated and observed in 45 states. Its name is a blend of “June” and “nineteenth”, the date of its celebration. It started in January 1 of 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States, abolishing slavery and freeing more than half a million enslaved African Americans. You would think that this would be the biggest and grandest New Year’s celebration in the entire world, but it wasn’t. There were no Facebook or Twitter back then. No emails or modern news networks that can pass information quickly to everyone across the country. Sadly, many people remained enslaved until the news came to all of the United States two and a half years later.

Today, there are literally no slaves in the US. Everyone is a free man. Every race free to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Everyone is a captain of his own soul. And everyone has a thing or two to say about slavery and freedom. But throughout the years, I’ve learned just the important ones that changed the way I see life.

First, answering our class-clown philosopher classmate, we can be literally free from chains but our minds can be enslaved by other things. Addictions, vices, discontentment, worries, anxiety, and depression. These things enslave the modern American every single day and the chains keep on getting tighter each year. These things constrain and choke people, proving to be psychological burdens that limit our full and true potential.

And though we can blame no one for the lack of technology to spread the news of the Emancipation, a lot of slaves and slave-owners only looked out for their interest once they received the news. Freedom needs to be shared and enjoyed by everyone. Once you are free from any sort of bondage, the essence of freedom gets lost when you use it selfishly. You need to share the joy and the glory of this good news on being free to those who were also once enslaved.

I hope this year, we will look at Juneteenth not just a day of observance for something that happened more than a century ago, but look back to see that if we are capable to break the chains of physical slavery, we can also break free from the mental and psychological slavery that still affect our lives to this very day. This is, dear readers, where true freedom begins.