In this nation, we celebrate many national holidays. Some are celebrated around the world, such as Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Others are uniquely American, recognizing the path this nation has taken to overcome obstacles. On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the birth of a nation with celebratory fireworks. However, we also recall images of soldiers freezing at Valley Forge. Many succumbed to hypothermia or dysentery. It was six and a half long years from the battle of Lexington and Concord to the final battle at Yorktown in 1781. Many died.

On Memorial Day, we remember those who died in battle to preserve our freedom. There are many claims to the origin of Memorial Day, but I choose to look to the call for Decoration Day by the leader of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868 to adorn soldier’s graves with flowers. Truth be told, this was already a widespread custom in many southern states. Again, the nation paid a dear price in the Civil War and many conflicts since.

We also celebrate birthdays of great men who presided over these events: Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These were certainly important and defining moments in the history of this country. We also celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and recognize his sacrifice and the work he led on civil rights. Surely, this is a defining moment for our current generations and those to come. It’s an opportunity to recognize that we, as a nation, must continue to do the work so necessary to deliver on the original promise that all men are created equal. So, why not celebrate throwing off the yoke of slavery?

Slavery was a stain on this otherwise “perfect union.” To address this, we engaged in a Civil War that tore us apart, but we survived to build a better union. Reconstruction was designed to make good on that original promise, but we lost our way in fulfilling that promise. Despite attempts to establish wealth in the Black community, we created roadblocks to make that path more difficult. We actively undermined those attempts with violent action such as the 1921 Greenwood Massacre in Tulsa. Segregation was a further blot on our progress.

However, I believe that this winding path has been mono-directional toward equality. Yes, it can be frustrating and there’s more work to do, but let’s be bold in undertaking that work. Like other national holidays, let us recognize the cost of slavery and honor those who sacrificed so much. Let us acknowledge that slavery was a tragedy, whose effects we’re striving diligently to eradicate. Led by works such as the mural in downtown Galveston, “Absolute Equality,” let the images of our progress be as strong as those from Gettysburg, Iwo Jima or Yorktown. So too, let us understand that we’re a better nation having overcome slavery and celebrate that we’re a nation that works every day toward absolute freedom, liberty and equality.

Let us make Juneteenth that day across this nation.

Stephen Gray lives in Galveston.

Locations

Recommended for you

(9) comments

REGINALD LACKEY

I am sure that there will be all sorts of arguments why this isn't or is a good idea. I for one am in total agreement with this well crafted letter.

Samuel Collins III

Great guest column. We are closer than ever to finally making Juneteenth a national holiday. 94 year old Opal Lee will return to Galveston Memorial Day weekend to continue her Opal's Walk to DC campaign to make Juneteenth a national holiday. She was first here in September 2019 and she will walk in Galveston again May 31st. Opal travels all over the United States walking 2.5 miles which represents the almost 2.5 years between January 1, 1863 and June 19, 1865. She has already delivered 1.5 million signatures to elected officials in Washington DC and hopes to gather another 1.5 million for a total of 3 million signatures. If your schedule allows join us on May 31st at 7:30am at 2700 Seawall Blvd in Galveston as we walk a little over 2.5 miles to the Juneteenth marker and mural at 2201 Strand. Also joining us on Memorial Day will be the 2020 National Miss Juneteenth Saniya Gay from Delaware.

Stephen Gray

Mr. Collins - I hope to be there on the 31st

Bailey Jones

I agree 100%. Juneteenth is a day for all Americans to celebrate. [thumbup]

Norman Pappous

Very well written. Hope a lot of people read it.

Stuart Crouch

A very well-constructed article and argument for such a national holiday. Quite telling is the silence of the usual suspects that typically offer straight party-line dissention in these forums.

For us, as a nation, to atone for the misgivings and deeds of those that came before us here, we needn't hang our heads and live in shame; I'm not certain that the people of today should feel that they must live with the weight of guilt and remorse for the atrocities committed in years long past. I do know that we should be able to come to terms and be honest about the wrongs that were committed against those of a different skin color (African-Americans, Hispanic/Latinx folks, Indigenous/Native-Americans, Asian-Americans and so many more). And we, all of us, are responsible and have a contributing role in the improvement and repair of our country, so that all people are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of color, culture, language, religion or personal identity.

No one is saying that you have to love everyone and invite them to dinner; just show some tolerance, respect and, God-forbid, some empathy of others that are different than you. It cost nothing to be kind. It takes very little effort to understand the plight of any of those less fortunate than you or me. For those who enjoy the label of "Christian", this is where the rubber hits the road; something of a 'put-up or shut-up' moment. Prove it. Show and convince yourself, if not everyone, that you are the man/woman/child of God that you strive to be. There really is no valid reason not to, other than pride, prejudice and perhaps hate in your heart.

Sadly, Juneteenth is not yet a national holiday for the same reason(s) that there is not a holiday for state and national elections; it appears to be more about who it helps and hurts than whatever the cause to be recognized. There is no good reason to not have a Juneteenth holiday; the same for an Election Day holiday - noting that this cannot be contorted and contrived to suggest it would lead to any such 'voter fraud'.

The sad reality for some is that in roughly 12-13 years, regardless of immigration policies, the bogus laws of voter suppression or anything else that some can dream up, white people will become a minority in this country. It's coming, it's inevitable and there is absolutely nothing that anyone, especially the racists, the white supremist, the feeble-minded and ill-at-heart, can do about it. Why not embrace it? Grow to understand what our country represents. We are not the best because we exclude others, rather we thrive and succeed because we include them. When the Irish and the Italians came to our shores in search of a better, more prosperous life, many here didn't like it and treated them badly. Though fair-skinned, they were different and had different languages and cultures. Look at us now. They are part of "us", woven into the fabric of our country, with a history of challenges, acceptance and prosperity. There is no reason that the American tradition of acceptance and benevolence cannot continue on today. Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be an excellent and exemplary move in that direction.

Raymond Lewis

Very good article Mr. Grey.

Jose' Boix

We have built an awesome foundation, using historical facts to energize much needed change. What I would like to see a set of key indicator parameters (5 to 7) that would be used to measure and track the needed change. This is one of the main elements I find missing. We need to begin a similarly energetic plan to show and tell how the efforts from the past - to date, are making a measurable difference.

Without a strategic foresight plan and communication of progress I am afraid that we will not see the much-needed change. Just may thoughts.

Charles Douglas

Talking about the rubber meeting the road and putting up or shutting up, I see nothing but hot air coming from the LEFT. I see promises unkept, bad schools, menial jobs for minorities, high crimed neighborhoods, vote harvesting, open borders, and an abundance of magniloquent high side words of expression designed for appeasement!

That is it! Where is the beef! Where is the Reparations and payback yall promised Big Al Sharpton back in the primary part of the elections when every Democratic LEFTIST LIBERAL to be had, kissed his ring on one knee, and promised Reparations if African-Americans supported them? For that matter where is my forty acres, you can keep the mule, but WHERE IS MY FORTY-ACRES? Put up, or .......you know! Talk is cheaper than green grass! Now ...let's see how fast San Fran Nan, and Joe China can come up with those funds for those who have been wronged instead of making CHINA filthy rich! Okay then, time to quit appeasing...and start getting my MONEY!!! If you really want to help me .....give me my paper!!!!Lolololo. Time out for talking and a lot Verbosity! Lololo To be fair to the author, I commend you for your article, but for the sake of clarity, I am addressing a couple of contributors posting on this thread, who are criticizing others for not commenting. Now I just commented! Say this with me REPARATIONS.....give me something worth something! The price of votes are going up you know.

Welcome to the discussion.

Real Names required. No pseudonyms or partial names allowed. Stand behind what you post.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.