Monday, January 18, 2016

MLK Day and the Indivisibility of our Fundamental Human Rights

It’s amazing how fast time flies. It was just about this same time last year that I gave a public lecture on “Justice” during EMU’s 2015 annual observation of Martin Luther King’s national holiday. EMU celebrates this national holiday in a grand style that culminates in a heavily-attended president’s luncheon. Usually, this president’s luncheon is almost, if not the most, well-attended event of the university during any given year, with the exception of its commencement/graduation ceremonies.

This year, I had a privilege of serving on a university-wide planning committee that articulated and organized the array of events by which EMU usually observes this annual holiday although I played a role that was more or less philosophical. One of the rather notable moments of the various meetings of this committee involved our discussion on what ought to be the theme for the 2016 observation of MLK Day at EMU, which also happens to mark the institution’s 30th annual celebration of this significant national holiday. We eventually settled for “And, Justice for All?” as the most fitting theme/rhetorical question for 2016, in recognition of certain national milestones (such as the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965) and/or social challenges that have re-surfaced or confronted the nation in recent times, including recurrent incidents of extra-judicial killings of unarmed persons, particularly men and women of color, as well as certain federal and state-level judicial and state-level legislative actions that have been deemed as having diluted the spirit and letter of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Yes, time does indeed fly, for it was 33 years ago in 1983 that Ronald Reagan, President of the United States from 1981 to 1989, signed an Act for a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 to 1968), but the holiday was observed for the first time three years later in 1986. Like this year, commemorative marches/speeches/lectures, feasts, luncheons, etc. usually mark this great day. Most important, it’s a day for us to self-assess how we are doing in terms of living up to, striving to live up or aspiring to live up to the dreams of the national hero whose espoused values and norms of social relations and demonstrated non-violent means of social change are being honored across the country. Perhaps, as you read this essay, you can ask yourself: what have I done since the last MLK Day to advance the cause of peaceful co-existence, racial amity and my own personal relations within my zone of influence? Conversely, you can also self-question as follows: what have I done, since the last MLK Day, to expose and push back hate, where necessary, within my zone of influence?

As I cast my mind around some of the major national and international controversies that preceded this year’s commemoration of the MLK Day, the Universal Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 grabbed my attention. Given all of the civil rights and human rights issues that Dr. King himself addressed during his 13 years of being in the national limelight—that is, starting from 1955, when the leadership of the Montgomery Improvement Association of Alabama was thrust upon his shoulders in the wake of Rosa Parks’ famous bus boycott of that year, and ending in his assassination in 1968—a day, such as this, seems a most auspicious moment for calling attention to the United Nations’ Universal Human Rights Document, a subject that hardly comes up in neither national media nor social media discourses.

Interestingly, one of drafters of the UN Universal Human Rights was Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was President of the United States from 1933 to 1945. As the United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952, Mrs. Roosevelt was among nine United Nations officials who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This team was constituted from nine countries: the United States, Lebanon, China, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Chile, Canada, and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which is now the Soviet Union.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights consists of thirty rights that are considered fundamental and inalienable human rights that apply to every human being regardless of national origin, race, ethnicity, gender, creed, or age. Adopted on December 10, 1948, a time period when a good number of today’s developing nations of the world were still ruled by various Western European colonial powers, the UN Declaration of Human Rights could not have emerged at a more auspicious time because it served as a moral boost to and accorded legitimacy to extant movements—across much of the globe—for freedom from foreign occupation and colonial rule. Its emergence also served as a symbol of legitimacy and moral affirmation for civil/human rights struggles/movements within countries, such as the Black Freedom Movement in the United States of that time period. It’s also important to recall that this lofty set of Human Rights was codified by the United Nations after the world had gone through two devastating world wars: World War I (1914 to 1918) and World War II (1939-1945). World War I resulted in total casualties of more than 35 million, including 16.5 million deaths and 20 million wounded (http://ww1facts.net/quick-reference/ww1-casualties/). As for World War II, the casualties totaled up to 85 million, including 45 million civilian deaths, 15 million battle deaths and 25 million battle wounded (http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-students/ww2-history/ww2-by-the-numbers/world-wide-deaths.html).

As I see them, the League of Nations (1920 to 1945), the United Nations (1945 to present) that supplanted it, and the codification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, reflected the most gigantic humanity’s efforts at creating modalities for peaceful co-existence and for peaceful resolutions of conflict. The Universal Human Rights germinated out of a yearning by a war-wary world for a framework for protection of individual lives, for protection of minority populations and for peaceful co-existence among the peoples and communities of our planet. War, after all, reflects not a human capacity for peaceful resolution of conflict but a human capacity for destructive savagery and destructive barbarism.

The Declaration’s Preamble speaks eloquently to the essence of those fundamental human rights:
  • Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
  •  Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
  • Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
  • Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
  • Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
  • Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
  • Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge, and
  • Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction (http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html).
Now, for the full list and description of our 30 fundamental and inalienable rights, go to: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html.

There is a need for universal education about these fundamental human rights of ours. They belong to us: they are yours, and they are mine! We need to introduce and teach these fundamental human rights to students as early as middle school education.

One of the key points to remember about our fundamental human rights is that we have to view and treat them or learn to view and treat them as rights that apply in full to each and every one of us. In other words, each of us owes it as a duty, in our various roles and stations of life, to uphold and apply those rights as we relate to fellow human beings who may or may not belong to our own ethnic group, our own racial group, our own gender group, our own religious group, etc. To the extent humanly possible, we should resist temptation to think of these fundamental rights as rights that apply to only members of our own in-group or apply partially to others. Let’s engage in some introspection and ask as follows: Is there any chance that my conception and understanding of “rights” tell me, perhaps sub-consciously, that “rights” belong exclusively to those who share my ethnic, racial or gender affinity?

Think of it all as a symbiotic dynamic: respect yourself, respect other persons’ rights and then earn and expect respect for your own rights. Keep in mind that all things being equal, the same dignity, fairness and sense of safety that you crave for yourself are also expected by others in an undiluted fashion. In short, never forget this: fundamental human rights are not divisible—that is, they are not meant to apply fully to only members of our in-group and partially or fractionally to others who are not like us! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Opportunities for Africology and African American Studies education at Eastern Michigan University

By Victor O. Okafor, Ph.D.
Professor and Head of Department
Dear EMU Student:

Are you aware that the Department of Africology and African American Studies here at Eastern Michigan University offers several academic programs and General Education courses that are designed to help enrich your learning  experience in a way that could better prepare and equip you with knowledge and skills for effective functioning in a world of diverse peoples and cultures?

Are you aware that we offer a bachelor’s degree program in African American Studies which is open to ALL students, regardless of your country of origin, racial, ethnic, or gender classification? Indeed, our students—that is, students who traffic through our myriad of courses each semester—represent a diverse group of learners who come here to join us in our often exciting critical and systematic exploration of the black experience in its domestic and global contexts.

So, besides our 33-credit Major in African American Studies, we also offer a 21-credit Minor in African American Studies, a 12-credit Undergraduate Certificate in African Studies and a 15-credit Graduate Certificate in African American Studies. We also encourage students to double-major in African American Studies and any other discipline of their choice that can fit into the 124 minimum number of credits that you need in order to earn a bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University.

Every semester, we provide a mix of course sections that pertain to not only multidimensional aspects of black life and culture in the United States but also to the Caribbean and Africa. Thus, Africology is designed to provide you with a holistic understanding of the global black experience even though we accord a historically-necessary premium attention to the African American experience in the New World, particularly the United States.

Going back to history, we can recall that there was a distant time in human history when "our world" consisted of our village and destinations to which our most natural means of movement, namely our feet, could take us. At that ancient pre-historic time, our ancestors most likely did not even know that what they thought constituted the totality of their world, was simply a microscopic snippet of it to which they were confined by their limited horizon. Human civilization ultimately achieved greater self-awareness, and advanced technologically away from that simplistic mode of existence and that simplistic horizon to efficient and complex machines, including motor vehicles, watercraft, aircraft, the telephone, and now the internet, as means of expanded and quicker transportation and instantaneous human interaction and human communication. Thus, we now talk in terms of a global village connected by instantaneous modes of personal and mass communications. For Black Studies, one of the implications of all these technological transformations in human existence is a fact that our students are bound to be ill-served and ill-prepared by a tunnel vision of the black experience—that is, one that is simply local and simply domestic. Hence, for our students to be reasonably and optimally equipped to function in a world of diverse peoples and cultures that is increasingly inter-connected by instantaneous digital communications and creeping socioeconomic globalization, including our own heterogeneous society marked by an inevitable diverse work environment, they, in effect, deserve exposure to an Africological scope of inquiry—that is, a global vision of the black experience.

Easily remembered as the father of Black Studies, W.E.B. DuBois was a champion of a broadly-based and worldly educational experience. As he articulated it in The Souls of Black Folk, educational outcomes should include “… intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men [and women] to it” (quoted in Mullane, 1993, p. 392).[1] In terms of the New World, he posed the following challenge to educators: The problem of education … among [African Americans] must first of all deal with … the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races” (quoted in Mullane, 1993, p. 382).

DuBois could not be more correct. Liberal arts education is meant to open minds, not close or contract them. Education is meant to enlighten and broaden our horizons, not cause atrophy.

Thus, in our increasingly-globalized social and digital space, you stand to benefit from and be intellectually strengthened by a course of study which, among other learning outcomes, is designed to help you achieve a deep or deeper understanding of human equality in the context of human differences and commonalities as members of the same human species.

If you have not had a taste of what we offer, you are really not opening yourself up to a rich opportunity that exists here at EMU for you to acquire a critical understanding of race, its intersection with ethnicity and gender, and how race, in particular, influenced the social evolution of our heterogeneous society.

Avail yourself of an opportunity to acquire a critical knowledge of and perspective on how our society evolved from what was once a slave-owning state to what it is now: a country led by a President elected from a minority community of contemporary African Americans, most of whom are descendants of ancestors who were subjected to two hundred and forty-six years of African enslavement in the United States (1619-1865).

Avail yourself of an opportunity to critically learn about how the afore-mentioned transformation consequentially gave a concrete meaning to our ideal of freedom and how it also expanded our democratic space and strengthened our system of representative governance. And, avail yourself of an opportunity to critically learn about how a stratagem of non-violent direct action serves as a tool for positive social change.

So, to summarize, here at EMU, we have available for you a variety of learning options by which you can experience Africology and African American Studies:
  • You have a choice of choosing African American Studies as your major;
  •  you have a choice of double-majoring in African American Studies and another discipline;
  • you have a choice of choosing African American Studies as your minor;
  • you have a choice of using our African American Studies courses to satisfy some areas of EMU’s General Education program, such as AFC 101 Introduction to African American Studies, US Diversity; AFC 102 Introduction to African Civilization, Global Awareness; AFC 232 Politics in the African American Experience, US Diversity; AFC 244 Dimensions of Racism, Knowledge of the Disciplines, Social Science & Global Awareness; AFC 313 Contemporary Africa: the Struggle & Prospects for Development, Global Awareness; AFC 302W Writing for African American Studies, Intensive Writing; and AFC 351 the Social Context of African American Health, Knowledge of the Disciplines, Social Science;
  • you have a choice of completing a 12-credit certificate in African Studies;
  • you have a choice of completing a 15-credit graduate certificate in African American Studies;
  •  you have a choice of using available African American Studies course sections to complete the “free electives” for your bachelor’s degree; and
  •  as we speak, we are in the process of finalizing a proposal for a Master’s degree in Africology and African American Studies.

Take note that though we are known as Africology and African American Studies here at EMU, our field of study goes by a variety of names across US universities, such as Africology, Black Studies, African World Studies, Global African Studies, Pan-African Studies, Black American Studies, and Africana Studies.

In closing, are you aware that on our departmental website, you will find a link that opens up information on various types of careers that were established by individuals who graduated with degrees in African American Studies: http://www.emich.edu/aas/blackstudiesmajor2015.pdf?

Our website and Facebook pages also contain additional information about our department, its academic programs and a colorful list of our students’ dynamic community engagement activities: http://www.emich.edu/aas/programs.phphttps://www.facebook.com/News-about-Africology-Current-AAS-Majors-Minors-Cert-Students-Alumni-364720703546024/timeline/







[1] For more on this, go to Mullane, Deirdre. (Ed.). (1993). W.E.B. Du Bois from the The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Crossing the danger water: Three hundred years of African American writing. New York: Doubleday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Juneteenth’s 150th Anniversary




Juneteenth refers to the oldest commemoration of the termination of slavery in the United States, after two hundred and forty-six years of African enslavement. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth. This commemoration goes back to June 19th 1865—a date when Union soldiers, under the command of  Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War of 1861-1865 had, indeed, ended and that the enslaved were now free. Given that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863, and secondly, that the 13th Amendment to the United States, which constitutionally abolished slavery, was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865 (Hines, et al, The African American Odyssey, 2003, p. 255),[i] some observers would naturally wonder about the fact that the enslaved in Texas were still not free until June 19, 1865—two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

While history offers some theories about why the enslaved population in Texas remained in bondage years after the Emancipation Proclamation, there is a common viewpoint that those enslaved people of Texas were generally not aware, all along, of the Emancipation Proclamation that was supposed to take effect in the rebel states as from January 1, 1863. Second, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 had no impact in Texas primarily because Union soldiers were not available there to enforce it. But in due course, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender in April 1865 and the subsequent arrival of Union General Granger and his regiment in Texas in June, 1865 brought along a significantly strong presence of Union soldiers to quell outstanding resistance and to enforce Emancipation.

General Granger brought the news of Emancipation through Order Number 3 that he read to the people of Texas:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer (http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm).

Among the enslaved, reactions to this historic news included both shock and jubilation. Some of them headed for the North, while others migrated to closer destinations, such as Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Henceforth, June 19 of each year came to be annually celebrated by the freed African Americans and their descendants. It served as an annual special occasion for commemorating that “great day in June of 1865” with festivities and for recounting cherished memories of that day of liberation. In a way, for the newly liberated African Americans, this annual celebration also served “as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory.” In due course, the celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and the descendants of the initial generation of freed African Americans saw to it that the celebration was kept alive and annually re-enacted. As one historical note recalls, “the Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date” (http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm).

Juneteenth celebrations typically featured entertainment and abundant refreshments, including special dishes of not regularly available portions of lamb, pork and beef, along with prayers and educational items meant for self-improvement. Guest-speakers and elders tended to recount the struggles of the past, as they discussed the historical significance of Juneteenth. Barbecuing featured prominently in Juneteenth celebrations as celebrants shared “in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors” (http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm).

Celebrants come well-dressed and in early Juneteenth customs, being well-dressed was viewed seriously, particularly by the direct descendants of the enslaved population, for during slavery, the enslaved were prohibited, by law, from dressing as a free people could and can do. Thus, history has it that during the early days of this emancipation celebration in June, 1865, liberated African Americans discarded “their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers” and replaced them with clothing retrieved from their plantations (http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm).

Negligible outside interest
But, the early years of Juneteenth celebrations tended to attract negligible interest outside of the African American community. In fact, there were instances of external resistance to these celebrations as exemplified by official prohibition, in some places, of the use of public facilities for the occasion. So, in the early phase, most of the festivities tended to be staged in rural areas and by the rivers and creeks “that could provide for additional activities such as fishing, horseback riding and barbecues. Often the church grounds was the site for such activities” (http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm).

But as African Americans became land owners, it was not uncommon to see land donated and dedicated to Juneteenth celebrations. A prominent early example occurred in 1872 when one Reverend Jack Yates organized and raised a sum of $1000 which was used to buy an Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. In 1898, a local Juneteenth organization in Mexia, Texas bought Booker T. Washington Park, which served as a Juneteenth celebration site for decades, attracting as many as 20,000 African Americans during the course of a week, making that celebration one of the state’s largest.

A decline in Juneteenth celebrations
As from the 1900s, economic and cultural factors brought about a decline in Juneteenth festivities. As classroom and textbook education gradually replaced traditional home and family-taught history, with their less emphasis on the details and inhumanity of slavery, youth awareness and youth interest in this celebration dwindled.  Classroom text-books typically emphasize Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 as the landmark instrument that brought about the termination of slavery in the United States. Even till today, textbooks, in general, tend not to discuss the impact of General Granger’s arrival in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865. Furthermore, the Great Depression of the 1930s exacerbated poverty and caused many to lose their farms and to move to cities in search of jobs. The time constraints of urban employment often meant that unless June 19th fell on a weekend or a holiday, not many people were available to commemorate the historic day of June 19. Being close of July 4, not surprisingly, Juneteenth has tended to be overshadowed by America’s national Independence holiday.

A resurgence of youth interest
Nonetheless, some pivotal moments of the African American journey for freedom, equal rights and justice, particularly the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, have seen a resurgence of youth interest in the historical struggles of their ancestors. Juneteenth served as a rallying symbol. For instance, a set of students who participated in an Atlanta, Georgia civil rights campaign in the early 1960s adorned Juneteenth freedom buttons. On May 12, 1968, Juneteenth received yet another boost through that day’s Poor Peoples March on Washington, spearheaded by Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Coretta Scott King, wife of the slain Civil Rights Leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who had laid out a vision for that march but was assassinated on April 4, 1968 before it could be implemented (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91626373). A large number of those who attended the march, which attracted a crowd of about 50, 000, returned home to help organize Juneteenth celebrations in places where it had not been observed previously.  Milwaukee and Minneapolis are cited as two of the most prominent Juneteenth celebrations initiated after the Poor Peoples March of 1968.

Texas blazes the trail
In 1980, the state of Texas emerged as the first state to officially recognize the Juneteenth emancipation celebration through the work of an African American legislator, Al Edwards. He went on to encourage other states to follow suit (http://www.texanstogether.org/content/juneteenth). His efforts have been rewarded handsomely, for today, 43 states of the Union, including Michigan, have proclaimed Juneteenth as an official state holiday. Juneteenth has also been embraced by prominent national institutions as sponsors of its festivities. They include the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others.

Global Spread of Juneteenth
Juneteenth has reached beyond the shores of the United States, and is commemorated by African Americans who live abroad and their friends in several countries around the world. Among parts of the world where such Juneteenth commemorations have been held in various forms are South Korea, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Japan, Canada, Honduras, Ghana, Israel, Trinidad, Guam, France, England, Barbados, China, Germany, Italy, Puerto Rico, Germany, Czech Republic, Kuwait, and Spain (http://www.juneteenth.com/international.htm).

Continued Official Recognition of the Importance of Juneteenth
Here in the United States, the historic significance of Juneteenth continues to receive high-profile official recognition. The White House, the Senate of the United States, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) have all issued statements saluting this year’s 150th anniversary of Juneteenth.

On June 20, 2015, a White House statement noted as follows:

On this day 150 years ago, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves of Galveston, Texas finally received word that the Civil War was over. They were free. A century and a half later, Americans still recognize this occasion, Juneteenth, as a symbolic milestone on our journey toward a more perfect union. At churches and in parks, lined up for parades and gathered around the barbecue pit, communities come together and celebrate the enduring promise of our country: that all of us are created equal (http://www.juneteenth.com/whitehouse.htm).

However, the White House statement regretted that:

This year, our celebrations are tinged with sorrow. Our prayers are with the nine members of the Mother Emanuel community — nine members of our American family — whose God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were so cruelly snatched away. Our hearts go out to their families, their friends, and the entire city of Charleston. We don’t have to look far to see that racism and bigotry, hate and intolerance, are still all too alive in our world. Just as the slaves of Galveston knew that emancipation is only the first step toward true freedom, just as those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago knew their march was far from finished, our work remains undone (http://www.juneteenth.com/whitehouse.htm).

As it has done in previous years, in a resolution of June 19, 2015, the Senate of the United States proclaimed June 19, 2015, as “Juneteenth Independence Day.” The resolution said it “supports the continued nationwide celebration of “Juneteenth Independence Day” to provide an opportunity for the people of the United States to learn more about the past and to better understand the experiences that have shaped the United States,” pointing out that it “recognizes that the observance of the end of slavery is part of the history and heritage of the United States” (http://www.brown.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/brown-applauds-passage-of-juneteenth-resolution-honoring-the-day-that-news-of-the-end-of-slavery-spread-to-the-southwest).

In its own statement, the Democratic National Committee said:

Juneteenth is an opportunity to recognize the sacrifices of those who suffered from the stain of slavery in our nation’s early history, and the courage of those who struggled to secure a more perfect union. We commemorate those who were born or sold into slavery, and those who died in the process of bringing about its end (http://www.juneteenth.com/dnc14.htm).

And, the DNC added that “Juneteenth is also an opportunity to celebrate the significant contributions made by the African American community, and our nation’s rich history of those willing to fight for equality and freedom for all” (http://www.juneteenth.com/dnc14.htm), noting that “to this day, the fight continues” for “voter expansion, immigration reform, marriage equality, education reform, employment non-discrimination, health care reform,” each of which constitutes part “of the effort to extend the full set of rights and privileges to which we’re entitled as Americans” (http://www.juneteenth.com/dnc14.htm).

It its own statement, the Republican National Committee stated, in part, as follows:

Whether you’re celebrating Juneteenth at a community event or with family and friends, it is important for us to reflect upon how far we have come and the people who made it possible … Our past is a reminder of the necessity of fighting for equal opportunity and valuing our nation’s efforts to ensure freedom for all Americans (http://www.juneteenth.com/rnc.htm).

Conclusion
We can see from the foregoing passages that within this nation, there remains a bi-partisan recognition of the historic significance of Juneteenth as an essential celebration of freedom, liberty, democracy and equal rights for all. This is note-worthy and commendable, for, as a popular adage goes, those who forget their history are bound to repeat its mistakes. Indeed, African American epic struggles have had an overall salutary impact of expanding the democratic space and giving freedom a concrete meaning in the United States, and also serving as a metaphor for battles fought by other human communities, within and outside this country, for their own freedom and for legal recognition of their entitlement to equal rights in the sociopolitical arena.

[i] Though Congress passed the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865, it was then ratified by 27 states and declared effective as from December 18, 1865.