NYC Council member Charles Barron sponsored a Juneteenth celebration in his East New York District on Friday, June 17 which highlighted performances by children, in an effort to educate and keep Black History alive.
Juneteenth is celebrated annually in more than 200 cities across America. June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth, is recognized as the date when the last of the enslaved Africans in America were freed from Galveston, Texas.
The tone of the night was set by the Children of Sankofa International Academy. There were drumming and dancing by youths from community dance troupes after which Sankofa’s students pledged to the Ancestors that they will strive to be the best that they can be. This was followed by the reciting of the names of the 53 nations in Africa. It brought a tremendous response from the crowd, for each one could, no doubt, trace his or her ancestry back to one of these countries.
Tete Antonio, ambassador to the United Nations for the 53 nations of Africa was the keynote speaker. He stressed that whenever Africans meet, he feels obligated to be in their presence, because of their contributions to the Diaspora. He noted that the world is shifting and stressed the importance of Africans keeping their identity wherever they are, thus, he sees his mission as one to enforce the African union.
Guest speaker Dr. Georgiana Falu of the African Union Diaspora Task Force reminded the audience that there are Blacks throughout Central America and that each country is demanding its rightful place in history.
Former White House Chief of Staff, H.R. Halderman stated that “President Nixon emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the Blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this, while not appearing to.” Statistics do show that there are more African Americans in prison or on parole than those who were enslaved in 1850. More than 580,000 African American men are serving sentences in the prison system and 1 out of 9 Black males ages 20 – 30 are incarcerated.
These facts point to a troubling new type of enslavement. 1 out of every 3 African American boys born today can expect to go to jail in their lifetime. This justifies why Councilman Barron used children at the center of his Juneteenth celebration.
Barron emphasized that to stop the jail cycle, parents need to send their children to schools such as the Sankofa International Academy so that they can receive an African centered education, know their history and know themselves. This was the celebration of a liberation, which can only be completed by the children.