June is a big month for celebrating inclusion and diversity! June is LGBTQ Pride month, June 13 is Race Amity Day and June 19 is Juneteenth, celebrating the end of slavery in the United States. But do you know why these dates are so important?
LGBTQ Pride Month celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer lives. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, a group of New York City police officers raided the Stonewall Inn (again), a popular gay club in Greenwich Village. The police were pretty rough on the patrons (again), and a boiling point had been reached. The patrons fought back, leading to several days of riots inside and outside the club. The riots are said to have galvanized the gay rights movement—nationally and internationally. A year later, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the “Stonewall Uprising,” gay activists instituted New York City’s first Gay Pride Week with a march that attracted thousands of supporters. Other cities followed suit, and supporters began incorporating parties, parades, picnics, concerts and educational events into the mix. Gay Pride Week became Gay Pride Month, and the word “gay” was replaced with more inclusive acronyms such as LGBTQ. How mainstream has Pride Month become? On June 1, LEGO released “Everyone is Awesome,” a set of rainbow-colored figures inspired by the rainbow flag, which was created as a symbol of pride for the LGBTQ community.
GLOW (Gays, Lesbians and Others in Woods Hole), No Place for Hate-Falmouth and Cape Cod Pride Inc. have created a “You are Welcome Here” campaign with lovely rainbow-colored placards for Falmouth businesses to display. Look online for other Pride events throughout the month.
Race Amity Day celebrates friendship (the meaning of “amity”). As referenced in last month’s column, Dr. William Smith founded the Baha’i Faith-inspired National Center for Race Amity in Boston in 2010, and in 2015 the Massachusetts Senate passed a resolution establishing the second Sunday in June as Race Amity Day. The proclamation states: “The governor shall annually issue a proclamation setting apart the second Sunday in June as Massachusetts Race Amity Day to recognize that the people of the commonwealth are its greatest asset, to recognize that the commonwealth is comprised of multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial citizens, and to encourage friendship, collegiality, civility, respect and kindness as the commonly shared ideals of the collective citizenry of the commonwealth by joining with communities across the United States to reflect on the beauty and richness of the diverse peoples of this great nation, while reaching out with a spirit of amity toward one another annually and recommending that the day be observed in an appropriate manner by the people.” Well said, indeed!
The Mashpee Inclusion and Diversity Committee is hosting an Amity Day celebration on Saturday, June 13, from 1 to 3 PM at Mashpee Community Park (across from town hall). We’re lining up an exciting agenda, including a keynote address by Marie Younger Blackburn of Driven Women and Conversations That Matter and musical performances by Cheyenne Hendricks, Hashim Hassan and others. Bring your own blanket, chairs and picnic foods. Come and celebrate Race Amity Day with your Mashpee neighbors!
Juneteenth (June 19) celebrates the end of slavery. Why June 19? That’s a good question, with a complicated answer. On January 1, 1863, two years into the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery, but in “rebellious states” only (with a war going on, politics were at play). The news traveled slowly without phones or internet and news of the Emancipation Proclamation was withheld from some cities in an effort to preserve slavery. The proclamation was also difficult to enforce in states that were seceding from the Union.
Two years later, on January 31, 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which read “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This would free slaves in all the states but did not become law until it was ratified a year later, on December 6, 1865.
Meanwhile, the Confederacy was losing the war. On April 25 General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, which should have ended the war, but again, not everyone knew. There were more Confederate losses in multiple states with several Confederate generals surrendering and both sides agreeing the war was over, but the fighting continued in some states, including Texas. On June 19, 1865, US Brigadier General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and advised that the war was over and “…in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
One year later, June 19 was celebrated as the anniversary of the day that slaves in Texas became free. The day became known as Juneteenth and came to be known as the second Independence Day of our nation and is the largest celebration of the end of slavery. In 1980 Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday, and today 47 states (including Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia officially celebrate Juneteenth.
And now you know!
Celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month, Race Amity Day and Juneteenth (all in the month of June) reminds me of celebrating New Year’s Eve. These are all joyous occasions of camaraderie, hope and optimism, and they are meant to be shared with others. We hope to see you at our Race Amity celebration June 13 from 1 to 3 PM at the Mashpee Community Park!