Juneteenth Message to Jersey City: Wake Up and Unite
June 21, 2017 by Herbert Daughtry
On June 19, 2017, we held a March & Rally at City Hall in Jersey City, NJ. It was sponsored by the NAACP. I was the featured speaker. The following is my message.
“To Rev. Nathaniel Legay, President of the NAACP; Rev. Willie J. Keaton, Co-chair of the Labor and Industry Committee; and, Rev. Gloria Walton, Co-Chair the Labor and Industry Committee; to all of the officers and members and supporters:
“Juneteenth ought to be celebrated by people of African ancestry – throughout the nation – in every state, village, municipality, hamlet, and in every home, school, playground, workplace, legislative hall, etc. Even if it’s not officially recognized, we must still recognize and celebrate it.
“We must learn, teach, and practice defining and celebrating what we declare important or what our values are. We must define what is and when it is a holiday for us, and force others to recognize and accept our definitions and practices. It’s a mark of a free people to define themselves, their history, their work, their people, their culture, their labor, their holidays, etc.
“The message of Juneteeth is timeless, and its reach is boundless. Really, it is a message that is applicable to all people everywhere who are enslaved or confined in deplorable, disadvantaged, and inequitable situations or conditions in neighborhoods, communities, and/or nations.
“What is the message? First, let me tell you the story of Juneteenth. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in rebellious states on January 1st, 1863. In a real sense, the rebellious States freed their slaves by their decisions.
“On September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln sent word across the nation that he was drafting a Proclamation that would free the slaves if rebellious states refused to come back into the Union. The rebellious slave states were given 90 days to make up their minds.
“President Lincoln’s major concerns was to save the Union. He knew that the country couldn’t last as half slave, and half free. He had said, “A kingdom can’t stand divided against itself.” The rebellious states were given time to make up their mind. By January 1863, they decided for their independence and slavery. Hence, the Civil War.
“Sometimes, when slave masters, oppressors, or tyrants fight among themselves, the enslaved and the oppressed can gain headway in their fight for freedom, justice, and equality. There’s an African proverb that says, ‘When the tigers, lions, and leopards fight among themselves, the lambs have peace and sufficient necessities.’
“It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 when the Union troops were in Galveston, TX that the slaves were informed that they were free. Thus, began the celebration. So, today, 45 states recognize, in some way, Juneteenth.
“What are the lessons?
“Slave masters, oppressors, or despots will never inform the slaves or their victims, whose horrible state the oppressors derived benefit that they are free. Because the enslaved in Texas were kept uninformed, they did not know they were free, and had the power to accomplish whatever they set their minds upon.
“Likewise, today, their offspring are free, and can achieve any objective. They can take control of their neighborhoods, communities, etc. They are powerful enough to change the direction of the nation, and, indeed, of the world.
“Of course, the difference is, back then, the chains were on the bodies of the enslaved, and, for most of them, on their minds, too. Harriet Tubman, who was given credit for freeing 300 enslaved persons, said, ‘I could have freed many more, but they did not know that they were enslaved.’ She meant that they had so adjusted to their enslaved condition, some of them had been born enslaved that they didn’t realize they were enslaved.
“Nowadays, the chains are on our minds. Gone are the chains from our legs and bodies, but just as real today as yesteryear are the chains on our minds. If we knew how wise, intelligent, powerful, courageous, and numerically strong we are, and apply that knowledge, we could fight whomever and/or build whatever. We could create model communities and cities as we once did.
“Let us not forget we are people of African ancestry – builders of civilization. We laid the foundation that others built upon. We built this country. If you don’t believe me, read: ‘Capitalism and Slavery’ by Dr. Eric Williams; ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ by Dr. Walter Rodney; ‘Stolen Legacy’ by Dr. George G.M. James; and, ‘They Came Before Columbus’ by Dr. Ivan Van Sertima. Read everything that Dr. J.A. Rogers and Dr. John Henrik Clarke ‘breathed.’
“This is why the issue of reparation has been on the table ever since General William Sherman in Field Order No. 15, demanding remuneration for the enslaved. It required 40 acres – and, of course, the mule came later. We can’t overemphasize the Biblical truth – as men or women think in their hearts, so are they.
“According to the 2014 Census, the population of Jersey City was 262,146. The African American percentage of that population was 25.53%. Let’s round it off and say, 25%. If we were dealing with fairness, morality, ethics, decency, gratitude, the city would be divided up equitably.
“That would give people of African ancestry 25% of everything – goods and services, contracts, procurements, jobs, commissions, directors, the Mayor’s staff, police officers, firemen, unions, jobs and apprenticeships, corporations, service contracts, developers, judges, elected officials, staff of elected officials, etc.
“Our mantra ought to be 25%. We should wake up in the morning, and go to bed at night with 25% on our minds. We shall not rest until we have achieved 25%. We should not let the city rest until we have achieved 25%.
“We all know that those who are in control will not give us 25%. If you believe that they will, I’ve got an Empire State Building that I just built, and I’d like to sell it to you. No, the only way we are going to get 25%, we would have to find a way to take it.”
… to be continued.