If you haven’t heard the term Juneteenth until recently, you’re not alone. This is a holiday that celebrates the day enslaved Africans were freed. It probably wasn’t discussed in textbooks at all if ever. This is a state holiday only recognized by 45 out of 50 states. However, in recent years, the historic moment has gained exposure again as people throw BBQs, parties and different events to honor and remember the moment our people became free.
Alicia Figueras-Lambert and Sean Wright of the six-year-old publication Give the Magazine, decided to celebrate the occasion with the unveiling of their Black History issue.
This edition was slated to come out in February, but was delayed due to health issues Wright faced, so they thought revealing the cover around Juneteenth was a no-brainer.
Figueras-Lambert admitted she had only heard about Juneteenth a few years ago after joining the Islip Town NAACP branch. The magazine unveiling served as a networking opportunity as well as an educational one for the public, so they could learn about the holiday the way Figueras-Lambert did.
“I purposely chose this majority-white venue [Jewel Restaurant] for this majority-Black networking event, so we can be together harmoniously and learn from each other,” said Figueras-Lambert. “The people who are here who are not of color participated. I gave them magazines, so it’s a nice blend.”
The Islip Town NAACP President William Moss was one of the attendees, and he gave a brief, yet
Victoria Roberts, who also attended, agrees that education around Black history is the key to not only understanding the issues of the past but to figure out how to deal with the problems of today.
“If we begin to celebrate our heritage more, provide more education and invite people to learn about it, we can begin to address some of the trauma we face,” said Roberts, who is a clinician and social worker who helps former inmates in Nassau County come back to the community.
She reiterated that there is a connection between enslavement and incarceration, in that, both enslaved Africans and former inmates have been disenfranchised and were expected to re-program and enter into the world with ease.
“If a person’s been in custody for some time, there’s a whole different world for them when they come home,” said Roberts. “I met a gentleman who was 66, he’s been in the system since he was 22. He was afraid he wasn’t gonna be able to find a phone booth, and they don’t even exist anymore. I see that quite often.”
The powerful effects of slavery can be seen within the criminal justice system. Comparisons and connections like this have been made in books like Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow” and in Ava DuVernay’s “13th” documentary.
The impact of bondage can also be seen from a financial standpoint. Event attendee Moses Crawford, who is the president and founder of Foreclosure Options Inc., said minorities always get hit hardest when it comes to foreclosures due to a lack of education on finances.
“Every day people are losing their homes,” said Crawford. “Foreclosures in this state and a lot of other states are near epidemic proportions.”
According to the U.S. Census, Black home ownership is currently at 41.1% while white home ownership is at 64.2%. This disparity in home ownership can be traced back to slavery, because we were not allowed the same rights and privileges, like education, needed to build
Figueras-Lambert and Wright hope to educate people on issues like these that Black people face. At the same time, they aim to inform people about the positive things happening in the community, because like Figueras-Lambert says, “Every day is a school day.”