Juneteenth Leaders Press President Obama for Day of Observance

African Diaspora Tourism

African Diaspora Tourism
By Kitty J. Pope
June 1, 2013

Ron Myers

Rev. Dr. Ron Myers, leader of the Juneteenth movement is once again calling on President Obama to address the request of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) to recognize the suffering and violence that was inflicted on people of African decent in order to facilitate healing and reconciliation. While Speaker of the House John Boehner is hosting the unveiling of statue of Frederick Douglass at US Capitol on that same day, Dr. Myers, who is the founder of NJOF is urging blacks and people of all races from around the world to go to Washington, DC on June 19th for the National Juneteenth Memorial Dedication. Dr. Myers needs support for a stand in solidarity in efforts to get the president's approval to make this historical day one of national observance. (For schedule of activities, scroll to bottom of page.)

"We hope President Obama will acknowledge Juneteenth as the National Day of Reconciliation and Healing from the Legacy of Enslavement," says Dr. Myers who has been aggressively pushing for this legislation for since 1997 when the U.S. Congress unanimously passed seven joint resolutions recognizing Juneteenth. "We are hopeful that congress will finally enact legislation to establish the '19th of June' on all calendars as America's 2nd Independence Day. We are not asking for a paid federal holiday, but a national day of observance, like Flag Day and Patriot Day," exclaims Myers.

President Obama

President Obama has been invited to speak for the Washington Juneteenth National Holiday Observance hosted by Dr. Myers in the nation's capitol om June 18th and 19th. On Wednesday, June 19th, there will be a Juneteenth Breakfast in the morning and a Wreath Laying Service that evening. On the evening of the preceding day, Tuesday, June 18th, the National Juneteenth Black Holocaust "Maafa" Memorial Service is scheduled to take place at Lincoln Park United Methodist Church with Rev., Dr. Diane Dixon-Proctor officiating. (For complete agenda and locations, visit NationalJuneteenth.com.)

"During our National Juneteenth Black Holocaust Maafa Memorial Services, we have read some of the names of victims of lynching and racial acts of terrorim in America," states Dr. Myers. "Maafa" (pronounced MAH-AH-FAH), a Kiswahili word that means great calamity, catastrophe, tragedy or disaster, is a term describing African Americans own unique holocaust and tragic loss of life in American history, including the Middle Passage where millions of Africans died on slave ships on the journey from the west coast of Africa to the Americas. Similar "Maafa"memorial services have been held as part of Juneteenth observances across the country, including New Orleans, Louisiana and Burlington, Vermont.

"We humbly request all Americans of consciousness to join us in the remembrance of the thousands Americans who have been victims of racial violence in America," states Rev. Myers. "We also hope that President Obama will personally acknowledge the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 as a remembrance of the "Maafa", as he has done for the tragic loss of life during Patriot Day, 9/11.

Tulsa Race Riot

It was on May 31st and June 1st in 1921 that one of the worst domestic terrorist acts in modern American history occurred. Referred to as the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, over 300 ( one author estimate over 3,000) African Americans were violently killed and thousands displaced from their homes by fellow white Americans. Dr. Myers is disappointed that the tragic event still receives no major coverage in the national media, while the anniversaries of the terrorist attack of the 2001 World Trade Center in New York, on 9/11, and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing continues to receive major media attention. The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 led to the destruction of the prosperous Tulsa black business district known as Black Wall Street.

"ABC News has yet to acknowledge their erroneous reporting of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as the worst domestic terrorist act in U.S. history, ignoring the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921," says Dr. Myers. "No acknowledgment by President Obama. No public acknowledgment by Congressional leaders. No news story on CNN. No coverage by FOX News. No discussion on MSNBC. No mention by the Governor of Oklahoma." "Just like Juneteenth, the "19th of June", America's 2nd Independence Day, America's dark history of domestic terrorism through the lynching and murder of thousands of Americans of African descent continues to be ignored by all major media and goes without personal acknowledgment by President Obama," states Rev. Ronald V. MyersThe Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 should not be ignored. It should be embraced by all Americans as a part of history that demonstrates how far we have come and yet need to go to bring closure to decades of racial violence."

Appointed National Advisory Chairman of America's Black Holocaust Museum by late museum's founder, Dr. James Cameron, a lynching survivor, Dr. Myers was encouraged during the week of Juneteenth in 2005 by the US Senate Apology for Lynching, after having worked closely with former Congressman Tony Hall (D-OH) in initial efforts to get a congressional apology for slavery. "Dr. Cameron taught me the importance of forgiveness, patience and reconciliation by his remarkable life," states Dr. Myers, who believes that Congress has continued to show sensitivity to issues surrounding the legacy of enslavement since the U.S. Senate Apology for Lynching.

Gov. Jim Doyle
(Photo: Milwaukee, WI, Gov. Jim Doyle signs a bill that makes Juneteenth Day a legal holiday.)

Due to the efforts of Dr. Myers and other Juneteenth Movement leaders, Juneteenth is now recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in 42 states. In 2003, the District of Columbia passed legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a district holiday observance. Other states, including Utah, South Dakota and Montana have recognized Juneteenth through state legislative resolutions and Gubernatorial Proclamations.

"We are very much appreciative of the tremendous support that leaders like Congressman Danny Davis and Senator Carl Levin have given Juneteenth over the years," states Dr. Myers. "Last year, during the 112th Congress, retired U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) sponsored S.J.R 45, with thirty co-sponsors, that would have established Juneteenth Independence Day as a National Day of Observance, like Flag Day or Patriot Day. Unfortunately, Senate Democratic leadership blocked the legislation from coming up for vote by the full senate. Now we have to start over again, during the present 113th Congress, and hopefully find another U.S. Senate sponsor for similar Juneteenth legislation in 2013." states Dr. Myers.

In a recent letter, Dr. Myers requested that President Obama honor the enslaved Americans who built the White House by hosting a Juneteenth Celebration at the White House in June. "Juneteenth has never been celebrated in the White House," states Dr. Myers. "We hope that President Obama will agree to celebrate freedom and honor the Americans of African descent who were not free when the White House was built during the tyranny of enslavement." Thousands of petitions have been forwarded to the White House over recent years supporting Dr. Myers' request for a presidential proclamation to recognize Juneteenth. "As a U.S. Senator from Illinois, President Obama successfully sponsored legislation to recognize Juneteenth Independence Day in the US Senate in 2006," states Dr. Myers.

Juneteenth Stamp

"We are hopeful that this is the year that President Obama will not only issue a Juneteenth Proclamation and support legislation to make Juneteenth a second Independence Day of National Observance, but also lead the nation in healing from the legacy of enslavement. The annual observance of Juneteenth provides America with the greatest opportunity to bring about a constructive resolution to the history of the brutal enslavement of Americans of African descent and the racial conflicts that plague the nation," confirms Dr. Myers.


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