JUNETEENTHFROM ROBIN KELLEY:
Today many of us are commemorating Juneteenth, the date in 1865 when emancipation was officially declared in the state of Texas.
Two months after the Confederacy surrendered and enslaved people—with help from the Union army—brought down the system of chattel slavery throughout the rest of the South, Texas was one of the last holdouts. Juneteenth was just declared a national holiday, but African Americans have been celebrating this day for a century and a half, and it was always bigger than Texas, bigger than the United States, even bigger than the dark night of slavery.
Before it became “Juneteenth” it was called “Jubilee Day.” Jubilee comes from the Bible, Leviticus chapter 25, which promised the freeing of all slaves, the cancellation of all debt, and the return of the land to divine authority—which in our tradition meant stopping the privatization of land and the dispossession of people through settlement (“the land is mine, and you are coming into it as aliens and settlers”).
Juneteenth, then, is also our opportunity to link Black and Indigenous struggles. I connect the original meaning of Juneteenth with Palestine. The principles of Jubilee apply to people dispossessed in their own land, trapped in state-sanctioned enclosures and subject to military assault, carrying debts imposed by illegal occupation.
It is impossible not to reflect on the condition of Palestinians on this somber day, as Israeli forces resume their bombing of Gaza just weeks after an eleven-day assault that killed 243 Palestinians—including 66 children—and displaced thousands.
As a descendant of enslaved Africans on this land, I am not alone. Between the Ferguson uprising in 2014 to the protests of the murder of George Floyd, Black-Palestine solidarity has only deepened. From the halls of Congress, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, and Jamaal Bowman recently connected the struggles of Palestinians with the Black freedom movement. Palestine Legal not only sees these connections but puts them in practice. As a board member, I’m proud of our consistent support for activists, scholars, and various organizations fighting for Palestine in the face of intimidation and censorship, as well as our support for Black and Indigenous movements for liberation. Thank you for joining us in this critical work.