DeKALB – The Black Lives Matter marchers in DeKalb had history in mind Friday in honor of Juneteenth, as a group of about 150 protesters marched from Clinton Rosette to Hopkins Park for a Freedom March.
Once at the park, organizer Vivian Meade gave a history of Juneteenth, the annual celebration of the day slaves were freed from Texas, the final state to do so two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, with New Hope Missionary Baptist Pastor Joe Mitchell then providing some local historical context and a prayer.
“The Emancipation Proclamation, although it announced the freedom of slaves, they weren’t really free until two years later,” Meade said. “This isn’t the end. In 1865 they thought they were free. And unfortunately we are still standing here today fighting for that same freedom and equality and justice and peace.”
Before his prayer, Mitchell provided a brief history lesson on the underground railroad in DeKalb County and the role of three churches in Sycamore. He said the work couldn’t be done without white abolitionists.
“While the underground railroad could not run through DeKalb, you need to know it ran through Sycamore,” Mitchell said. “There were three powerful churches in Sycamore who gave their lives to make sure slaves had a way to travel north to Canada.”
One of those churches, he said, is now known as Federate Church. He introduced pastor Eric Ogi of the church to a round of applause.
Like Meade, he pointed out the work that still needs to be done.
“Know that the work of liberation is not over. Know that the work of freedom is not over,” Mitchell said. “Many of you were here yesterday when we had a town hall meeting and see the work is plentiful still to be done. We need to work together. Fannie Lou Hamer said no one is free until everybody is free. Until we all are free we all need to fight together.”
The protests locally have been going for three weeks, sparked by the death of George Floyd, 46, while in custody of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white. Chauvin was later fired and charged with murder after he was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even after Floyd had passed out.
Mitchell said like abolition, the current movement needs unity and cooperation.
“Black Lives Matter is a statement of humanity,” Mitchell said. “It’s not a statement of superiority. It’s a statement of equality. We need equality for everybody. And the only way that we’re going to get there is, like the underground railroad, us fighting together.”
Former President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, and it became effective the following Jan. 1. But it wasn’t enforced in many places until after the Civil War ended in April 1865. Word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19 of that year, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas.
Most states and the District of Columbia now recognize Juneteenth, which is a blend of the words June and 19, as a state holiday or day of recognition, like Flag Day. It is not, however, recognized by the federal government as a national holiday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: The Daily Chronicle