“Icecream…sodawada…cream on da top…tell me the ‘nitials of yo sweet hart. Is it A-B-C-D…” Well, you get the picture. Remember back in the day when we used to jump rope for fun but yet we communicated with the lyrics? We didn’t have a care in the world. Unfortunately, our forefathers didn’t have life so easy. Their chants were, “Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ fo to carry me home” and ” Steal away” , to name a few. Unlike our chants, their songs and chants had an even deeper meaning. Most of their songs were a matter of life and death. For example, the slaves had two common types of codes spiritually. One type was signal songs and the other map songs. The significance of a signal song was that it communicated a certain event such as an escape from a plantation that had been planned and was definitely going to happen. In a map song, the words in the song actually contained specific instructions of a map that directed slaves to a significant point of escape along routes of the Underground Railroad. Have you ever listened to the lyrics to the song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd?” That song indicated that the best route to follow was the direction of the Big Dipper (the drinking Gourd) which contained the North Star. Following the North Star was a guaranteed sign that escaped slaves were heading in the right direction to freedom.
Even with our very specific secret communication, it was not perfected. There were times when we as people of color still did not get the messages that were rightfully ours in a timely manner. For example, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln ordering that all slaves become free citizens by January 1, 1863. Unfortunately, the slaves in Texas did not get the communication until 2 1/2 years later on June 19, 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas and informed all slaves that they had been granted their freedom from slavery, thus bringing about the phrase, “Juneteenth”. The calendar of the slave owners said June 19th but the unique verbiage of our forefathers pronounced it “Juneteenth”…again, you get the picture.
We as a people have always had our unique way of doing and saying things and today is no different. The fortunate thing is that today we can continue to celebrate “Juneteenth” with great food and dance…but now the word is easily communicated by way of technology and social media. GET THE PICTURE!?
Let’s continue to move forward as a People and have a great time celebrating on June 19, 2016 and invite your individual family and friends to your “Juneteenth” celebration.