Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery that was first celebrated the year after Major General Gordon Granger issued orders freeing the slaves in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865. In the 150 years since that first celebration, African Americans marched for justice on many occasions. Most Americans know about the march on Washington D.C. in 1963 where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and they know about the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, but too few know the Poor People’s March on Washington in 1968.
The Poor People’s March on Washington took place just after Dr. Martin Luther King’s death, and was the last campaign he worked on. The campaign was motivated by a desire not only to have freedom, but also to ensure that people had the economic means to live. They demanded full employment, better incomes, and more affordable housing. King viewed this as part of the second phase of the civil rights movement; he said, “We believe the highest patriotism demands the ending of the [Vietnam] war and the opening of a bloodless war to final victory over racism and poverty”.
Caravans of people marched from all across the country, including California, Alabama, Mississippi, and Washington. After marching to Washington, D.C., these activists stayed for six weeks and formed a shantytown on the National Mall called Resurrection City. Despite limited resources and what seemed like unending rainfall, African American occupants of Resurrection City were able to organize marches to Congress, establish a university, and form a small government with a city hall where Rev. Jesse Jackson was mayor. In the very last days of occupying the National Mall, they held a Solidarity Day on June 19th, Juneteenth. First celebrated to commemorate the liberation of the last slaves in 1865, it was celebrated again to stand for the end of poverty and racism.
Today, we continue to march forward. We march for racial justice in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown. We march for economic justice so that everyone can have a job that pays a decent wage. We march for freedom. So long as the long march continues, brothers and sisters at SEIU 1199 will hold our picket signs, sing songs of justice, and fight for the equality that was promised over 150 years ago today.
We encourage our members to join us in Solidarity at one of these Juneteen events across our district:
Juneteenth Celebration in Huntington
Saturday, June 18th 11:00 am- 5:00 pm
AD Lewis Field, 1450 A D Lewis Ave
Cincinnati 29th Annual Juneteenth Festival (with Prince Tribute)
June 18 12-9
June 19 2:30-6
Eden Park- 950 Eden Park Dr,
Columbus 26th Annual Ohio Freedom Festival
June 17th-19th Noon-11:00 pm daily
Genoa Park-303 W. Broad St.
7th Annual African Dance and Drum Festival and Juneteenth Concert in Cleveland
June 18-19 9:00 am-9:00 pm
Phillis Wheatley Association
1911 West 30th Street
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
– “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, James Weldon Johnson