REGION — Over the past several years, Juneteenth has gained wider recognition as an important day for African Americans.
Juneteenth, which is celebrated every June 19, honors the day in 1865 slaves were finally freed, 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War. The Confederate states did not honor the proclamation.
In 1865, after the Union won the war, a Union general marched to Texas and announced to 250,000 slaves they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Today, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, according to Juneteenth.com.
Now, as the Black Lives Matter movement for racial and social equality and justice grows, black surfers Risa and Danielle Black Lyons detailed the history and what it means to them, especially as surfers in a mostly white sport.
The two are part of the Black Surfers Group to reach out to people of color to push forward a more diverse set of surfers in the region. Lyons, of Oceanside, helped spearhead the “Paddle Out for Unity” in Encinitas on June 3, while Risa, of San Diego, organized the “Paddle for Peace” in Pacific Beach on June 6.
“We are in the midst of a transformative moment in history,” Lyons said. “We have the American public’s ear and the freedoms our forefathers fought for over a century and half ago should not be in vain. We must continue to push for police reform and to break the systemic cycle of racial injustices that this country continues to rest on.”
She said education starts at home and at a local level. Lyons stressed every parent must teach their child to love others, no matter their race.
Additionally, every citizen must vote and have their voice heard, she added. People can no longer stand idly by — society must work together and the accountability starts now, she said.
Risa, a daughter of biracial parents — her father is black, her mother is Guamanian — said her great-grandfather was a slave. As such, the day has deep meaning for her, and she noted the awareness and education of Juneteenth is growing.
“Just because they were ‘free’ as slaves doesn’t mean they were free as people,” Risa said. “You had all the segregation laws, laws against voting, interracial marriages weren’t allowed.”
She said Juneteenth became unpatriotic as America started to spread its dominance across the world and hid its dark and violent past. So, black people began celebrating the day in their homes, Risa said, but over the past several years Juneteenth has seen a resurgence, with some calling for it to be recognized as a national holiday.
Large corporations are starting to recognize the day as a company holiday in light of the Black Lives Matter protests.
“I think we as a community in 2020, we should’ve made Juneteenth a bigger deal, which we are doing now,” Risa said. “It’s so crazy to think we never celebrated it. I think it’s a beautiful thing that now it’s starting to be recognized for what it is and being celebrated as it deserves to be.”