June 19, 1865 . . .was the day slaves in Texas were finally freed --a full two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation!
It took Union soldiers to show up in Texas and inform slave owners that they had to comply with this proclamation. Delays in changing behaviors were surely influenced because slave owners were responsible for informing the slaves that they were free.
Change can be so difficult if those in power believe they have something to lose by the change.
This date, June 19th and the related holiday, Juneteenth, have not gotten much attention outside the African American community until the last couple of years, even though the first annual celebration was in June 1866.
Martin Luther King, Jr., the late modern day prophet, noted that, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” For slaves in Texas to wait 2 ½ extra years to be freed was justice denied. MLK, Jr. knew his scripture, and knew the writings of Isaiah. Isaiah, the late ancient prophet, was big on justice as a path to righteousness. We, as a faith community, can learn much from studying Isaiah.
Here are a few thoughts from Isaiah. Do any of them help you imagine the writings and sayings of Jesus?
Isaiah 1:17- Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.
Isaiah 42:1-9 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching . . . I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. . . See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.
Isaiah 61:8- For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
MLK, Jr. knew about Juneteenth, likely celebrated and commemorated this day during his lifetime. MLK, Jr. knew Jesus’s teachings just as he was familiar with Isaiah, who was one of Jesus’s inspirations to be sure.
Racial justice is still in process. We have a long way to go. As people of faith, we are invited to walk as allies with our siblings of color in their continued fight for recognition and equality.
This weekend, see if there is a Juneteenth celebration or parade near you. If so, see if you can join in. Yes, we are still in process. And, we are beloved children of God invited to walk on the side of justice for all we meet along the way. None of us are free until all of us are free.