Today is Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
It can seem odd to us–in this age of instant communication–that it was not until June 19, 1865 that those held in abject bondage in Texas learned they had been freed by Presidential Proclamation on January 1, 1863. That was the day that Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston with the news the war had ended and the enslaved were now free.
Texas slaveowners, like oppressors everywhere, were not eager to let go of control, and certainly not to share the good news of liberation.
This has a contemporary ring to it. California (n0t to mention Virginia!) voters and courts refuse marriage equality. Congress dilly dallies on Hate Crimes and Employment Non-Discrimination. President Obama fails to issue orders on our behalf.
Anger is everywhere. I share it.
And yet, I also know that no people ever won their freedom without fighting for it.
Actually, “working” is really the better word. Freedom requires hard work.
Remember that after Juneteenth, those formerly enslaved and their descendants still had a long struggle (one that continues today) to gain their actual, on-the-ground, freedom.
As a person of faith, I believe God is in the struggle. God creates us to be free, and gives us the spiritual power to claim our own.
But we must claim it. No human authority can give it to us.
If you agree, let me know that you’d be willing on July 3 or 4 to join in a public action to claim our freedom.
Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline is President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, an interfaith organization of gay and straight clergy and lay people working for equality for LGBT Virginians. Read more of his thoughts on faith and spirituality on his personal blog.