This year marks the 150th anniversary of what many consider a second or true independence day in the United States—it’s the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth Day.
“First of all, normally we have had parades a few times and the cost is unbelievable to use our own streets,” explained Dr. James Tucker, a decorated Gulf War combat veteran, publisher of the African-American Voice in Colorado Springs, Co. and state director of Juneteenth.
“So this year we decided on a freedom walk.”
Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of General Order Number 3, read by Union General Gordon Granger, on union-occupied Galveston Island, Tx. on June 19, 1865, declaring the total emancipation of all the slaves—two and a half years after the original declaration by Pres. Lincoln. The quarter of a million slaves in Texas at the time, shocked by the delayed news, rejoiced and left the plantations en masse.
“The Freedom Walk is from 329 E. Cimarron on the east side of Wasatch and Pueblo Avenue that was once the base of the Black community. Now there’s only one building remaining in the downtown area and they refuse to place an historic marker. We are going to march from that historic site to the hill where the KKK used to meet and lynch Black folks, the Hillside Community Center,” explained Tucker, (pictured above, left, on a 2013 visit to Cameroon).
But the organizers of the event are not just challenging the legacy of racism; they are also part of mobilizing against racism today.
“150 years later, we are still not free,” said Dr. Tucker who was arrested in a Walmart in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014 and whose newspaper has been in the forefront of exposing civil rights violators in the Colorado Springs area and the country as a whole. As a result, these businesses have essentially boycotted the publication in advertising. The paper is banned from Colorado Springs Police headquarters, Fort Carson, Colorado, and many other government agencies that receive federal dollars.
“Still we do not have justice for Black, Latino, Native Americans, Asians and poor whites in this country.”
“And the reason is we cannot afford justice in this judicial system that is not made for us…it’s not justice for all.”
Seeing the economic and racial disparities, Dr. Tucker has worked to forge unity and solidarity, being the first to unite Juneteenth Day with the Caribbean Heritage Festival “to connect us in the United States with our lost ancestors in the Caribbean and Latin America.” Colorado Springs is the first to draw this important connection of solidarity. Dr. Tucker pointed out that President Barack Obama recognizes Caribbean contribution in U.S. History with the National Caribbean Heritage Month Proclamation.
Dr. Tucker and the Juneteenth Caribbean Heritage Team call on Pres. Barack Obama to recognize Juneteenth Day on this 150th anniversary.
“He refuses to issue anything or recognize my enslaved ancestors who built the White House and empowered the rich white families today who built their wealth on slavery.”
As a new movement against racism and police violence has echoed throughout the U.S. in the past year, Dr. Tucker says: “People are sick and tired of racism and citizens are rebelling against this corrupt system.”
“My mother told me me growing up and my nickname was ‘Red’. She’d say Red, ‘You gotta be careful. If you stand up for your rights they are gonna put you in jail or gonna kill you.’”
“So I know there’s always the possibility of retaliation.”
But Dr. Tucker and the people of Colorado Springs understand that solidarity is strength and they call on all in surrounding areas and states to join them in marking this historic Freedom Walk.
To participate gather at the Elks Lodge at 329 Cimarron Street, Colorado Springs, CO at 11:00 AM on Sat., June 20. You can also participate in the weekend’s festival.