Sunday, June 19, 2011

Juneteenth Parade

In a reversal of its usual route, the annual Juneteenth Parade assembled in the Civic Center on Saturday morning and made its way up McAllister Street to a weekend-long street festival on Fillmore between Eddy and Sutter.

At the invaluable Juneteenth website (click here), there is a fascinating history of the annual celebration which started in Texas in the 19th century, has waxed and waned in popularity, and now looks ready for a resurgence as the great American festival day celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.

According to their site:
"Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops who could enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance."

"Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation."

I played for a softball team in the 1990s with a gay black Texan coach, Fred, who hosted a huge Juneteenth party in his backyard in the Haight-Ashbury every year, the first I had heard of the holiday which is marked by barbeques, special foods, and all kinds of handed-down-through-the-generations rituals.

It's interesting to read the defensive comments from white people on the Juneteenth article at SFGate (click here), essentially claiming that racism and slavery are ancient history, but their defensiveness just proves the point that we haven't graduated quite yet. A weekend celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S. is something we should all be taking part in.

The parade itself consisted of mostly vintage cars, including the Corvette Club above.

There were also plenty of politicians running for office, like Bevan Dufty above for mayor...

...and Supervisor Mirkarimi for San Francisco Sheriff on a hipster vehicle...

...along with Supervisor John Avalos for mayor walking the streets.

1 comment:

namastenancy said...

I came to see the cars and then, over to a friend's house for a fantastic spread. As usual, nice photos with your unique commentary.