Juneteenth: Guest Post by Tom Fritz

My friend and colleague, Tom Fritz, reminds us why Juneteenth is an important date in America history. I posted this blog on a Cru platform, but felt it is important to share beyond our organization.

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Juneteenth:

Guest Post by Tom Fritz.

Tom and Linda married in 1976 and have two sons. Tom served in Vietnam and earned BBA at Temple University. He started the Cru ministry on Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the Atlanta University Center and founded the Impact Conference. Over the years he has directed the Intercultural Resource, Ethnic Ministry Resources and founder of the EMAF Steering Committee. He has served with Cru City for 8 years. A former Pastor of Live Oak Baptist Church, Tom received his D.D. from Carver College. Tom has a passion for evangelism and discipleship among Black leaders on college campuses, in the city that includes making global impact.

 I am Black therefore I share from that perspective; therefore, I may interchange the words Black and us.

Did you know June 19th marks the celebration of Junteenth—the most popular celebration of the emancipation from slavery in the United States? Blacks started celebrating Junteenth in the 1870s after a group of former slaves in Houston, TX raised enough money from local black churches to purchase land and create Emancipation Park. Since then, Junteenth has been celebrated by rejoicing, dancing, well-dressing, and of course eating good food.

By understanding the history behind the celebration of holidays like Junteenth, Martin Luther King’s birthday, and Black History Month we can learn about Blacks in history, appreciate their contributions, and seek to understand their struggles with racism. Sadly, these stories are mostly excluded from the American history taught in our schools. However, it’s these very holidays that motivate Blacks to stay committed to the mission, to continue in the march toward freedom in justice, morality, equality, and economic well-being. I firmly believe that followers of Christ can use this type of conversation to identify and understand African American struggles in history. This type of conversation has the potential of breaking down the myths, biases, and misunderstandings that contribute to the racism in our society today. Junteenth is a good opportunity to learn and appreciate Black culture, and most importantly, it can open the door to share Jesus Christ the light of the world and to be a light to the lost.

 Junteenth: Historical Background

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to announce the slave’s freedom in Texas. Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Emancipation was first announced in 1863 the news had not reached the 200,000 slaves in Texas. You see, throughout the war, the Union Army’s presence in Texas was small and not closely monitored. And, since the Emancipation Proclamation applied only to those states within the Union, slave owners moved approximately 200,000 slaves to Texas. While the 1863 Proclamation of Emancipation was exciting for the slaves, it was not well received by the slave masters, and since not all the slaves were present at the announcement, many remained in bondage completely unaware of their freedom. The slaves who tried to get away were shot to death or hanged. So, you now better understand the importance of General Gordon Granger’s announcement and the importance of June 19, 1865—two years after Lincoln’s Proclamation—and the historical significance of Emancipation Park.

Some respond to stories like this and say, “So what? That happened over 150 years ago so why do we have to talk about this now?” Others think that bringing up these bad things only cause division and hate, “I had nothing to do with these tragedies and besides, it all happened before I was born.” Still others respond, “Blacks must stop blaming others and take responsibility for their own problems. They have a victim mentality. When will they pull themselves up by their own boot straps and stop depending on government aid?” Many react by saying, “I am not a racist. Don’t make me feel guilty.”

I’m suggesting that we instead ask, “What can we learn from this history?” I also recognize the truth is not always well received. Often there is résistance to Blacks celebrating their heritage and respecting their culture, often there is an unwillingness to converse around the topics of long-lasting injustice and racism.

As Blacks continue to march on toward freedom, sadly, most evangelical Christians and churches today remain silent.  The separation and mistrust persist. Words like “communist,” “socialist,” “liberals,” “government handouts,” “conservatives,” separate Black and White Christians. The biblical truths of love, justice and mercy are not discussed.  Yet Blacks have gained strength in the struggle toward justice and equality. Listen to the words sung by Aretha Franklin, “My soul look back in wonder how I got over” here.

Junteenth: Initiate A Meaningful Gospel Conversation

So, how can we in Cru begin some conversations and make the most of Junteenth 2019? Here are a few suggestions:

·       Use Junteenth to start a conversation with the goal to gain insight and learn from another culture. Seek to understand by humbly asking questions and listening to their answers. Leave behind any judgement or condemnation.

·       Don’t assume that all Blacks know about Junteenth, but take the opportunity to ask your Black co-workers or friends questions about how they view justice and inequality in history.

·       Select at least one topic for focus:

o   How does Junteenth apply to their life and our nation today?

o   How should we who call ourselves Christians behave, and how can our spiritual life and beliefs create positive change?

o   Ask yourself and your Black friends, how can I better understand your reality?

o   Make a commitment to better understand your Black brothers and sisters

o   Pray together

·       Share the difference that God has made in your life. What changes do you want to see God make in your life?  Ask, “How can I pray for you?” Within the conversation, you can share your faith.

 In summary, follow the leading of the Lord. Remember, the best order is often the ones out of order,