Yesterday was the first “official” celebration of Juneteenth – the commemoration of the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas were finally notified that they had been freed two and a half years earlier. The day has been celebrated since 1866, but this was the first year that it is was celebrated as a State holiday in New Jersey. Legislation making it a federal holiday also was passed this past week.
As part of the local celebrations sponsored by NJ LegislativeDistrict 15, theTrenton AfricanAmerican Cultural Collaborative,(TAACC), and theOutdoor Equity Alliance(OEA), a massive bike ride was held through Mercer County. The 50-mile leg of the ride wound through the Hopewell Valley and the families of schoolchildren were there to enthusiastically greet the riders with refreshments and appreciation.
At both Hopewell Elementary School and Bear Tavern Elementary School, the families who cheered on the riders were treated to an address by local resident Abdel Gordon who presented a poem commemorating the day. Mr. Gordon was kind enough to share his address with MercerMe.
Juneteenth address 2021
Hello my name is Abdel Gordon and I’m going to talk about June 19th – the holiday called Juneteenth.
I went to Hopewell Elementary, so did my mother and my grandmother and my great-grandmother Garney Waldron and as wise and knowledgeable as they are, and as wise and knowledgeable as all my teachers were through Hopewell High School, and even into college none of them ever told me about Juneteenth. I suspect like those people no one ever told them about it.
I learned it from my younger cousin Glen Waldron, God Rest his soul. One day he told me “hey my birthday is coming up on June 19th – that’s Juneteenth.” and I said “what’s Juneteenth” and he said “Awe man you don’t know about Juneteenth!” That’s when he told me some of what I’m going to tell you.
In this poem I wrote
“During the Civil War President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,
This freed enslaved black people in the South but not on every Plantation.
Many plantation owners in the South did not want to give up their slaves,
So they would fight to keep them in chains even fight to their Graves.
Some shipped slaves to Galveston Texas far way in the Deep South,
While the news of freedom slowly spread by the word of mouth.
In Texas the enslaved made up 30% of the entire population,
But this wasn’t even the highest percentage of slaves in the nation.
Places like South Carolina had 60% of the population in chains,
Accumulating vast amounts of wealth through ill-gotten gains.
With a 400 year-long, free labor work force, it’s not hard to see,
How America has become the wealthiest superpower in all of history.
I was always led to believe just a few rich white people owned slaves,
But when you look at these numbers that perhaps that was not the case.
Look at the person to your left and then to your right,
Imagine that both of them are in chains, this is what it was like.
Imagine all those in Texas forced deep down into the mines,
With unbearable heat, toxic fumes and cave-ins all the time.
Even after the South lost the war and could no longer fight the enemy,
They resisted to change their ways and their belief in white supremacy.
They didn’t say “We lost the war, oh well you’re all free to go,
They lied to Blacks and told them that their freedom they would never know.
That’s right they lied to Blacks and told them that their freedom will not be given,
While a man named John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
With 2000 Union troops, General Gordon Grainger delivered liberation,
When he stormed in to Galveston Texas, the once cotton capital of the nation.
On June 19th 1865 he stood directly in front of the people,
And declared all slaves are to be free and absolutely equal.
Interesting fact, you may not know that, some years after Blacks, left their slave masters, Galveston Texas was struck by the most devastating of natural disasters.
A super hurricane ripped completely through this city,
It was the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in American history.
You may think of superstorm Sandy or even Hurricane Katrina,
but this storm was much nastier this storm so much meaner.
13ft waves washed over the city at it’s crest and 140mph winds devastated the rest,
while in the end it swallowed 8000 people laying each one the rest.
Galveston was never able to fully rebuild after that,
especially since the liberated Blacks already got up and packed.
Celebrations of Jubilee did occur on every June to come,
and spread throughout the countryside this thing we call Freedom.
And I celebrate because I know the blood that’s in my veins,
is the same that endured 400 years and it still remains.
It gives me encouragement to persevere and face whatever the future may hold,
Because it’s in my hands now and my destiny is mine to mold.
Yes there is work to do but there is also cause for great celebration it seems,
because I am the living manifestation of my ancestors wildest dreams!
We need your support.
If MercerMe is your go-to source for local news, please support us! Our readers and advertising partners are necessary to keep the news coming.
Hyperlocal, independent, reliable, and digital, MercerMe has been providing Hopewell Valley its news since 2013. We’re community connected.
Click here to subscribe today!