On behalf of the African-American community of America, it is my pleasure, my honor, and my duty to host this year’s Juneteenth memorial celebration recognizing the liberation of Africans from slavery in America that is now a national holiday. While CNMI governors have sponsored and even participated in events for other federal holidays, there has never been an event sponsored by the government for Martin Luther King Day nor Juneteenth. I can still remember Dr. King once challenging me and other members of SNCC in the civil rights movement by asking us: “If not you, then who, and if not now, then when,” so I decided that someone must do something to start celebrating Juneteenth and MLK Day. Juneteenth is not just a day for African-Americans to celebrate but for all Americans who appreciate the plethora of contributions to our nation by slaves and African-Americans.
The liberation of Africans from slavery was just the first step in the long egregiously difficult climb to the mountaintop of equality where all men/women in America will arrive at the “valley of freedom and equality.” Just being free obviously doesn’t mean the former African slaves were equal as we had to first overcome the “separate-but-equal” racist doctrine and it is still a battle to tear down the walls, barriers and even laws that promote and defend white racial superiority and control of the electorate. We went from being called jungle-bunnies to niggers to negros to blacks and, finally, African Americans. It has been only in the past 50 years that we finally got the formal title of being recognized as African-Americans. But I think America and the world can now see in living color that racism is still alive and well in America with white supremacy ideologists and their insurrection on the Capitol, the manipulation of voting laws to favor white jerrymandered districts, and even terroristic attacks in churches and schools against people-of-color being even more pronounced and more disruptive to our society than ever since the Civil War era.
I do want to especially thank Rep. Tina Sablan for donating the tent, Dr. John Joyner, attorney Joe Hill for helping me with organizing this celebration, as I couldn’t have done it without them. This year’s celebration will be held on this Sunday, June 19, at the area across from the courts and DPS on the beach side called “Seng Song” between the last two huts to the south. People will start gathering at 12pm with short remarks and a sharing session by anyone who wants to share their story related to slavery and reconstruction, followed by eating! The event is a soul food and local food potluck gathering as everyone is invited and please bring your own beach chairs. There will be some great food, horseshoes, dominos, and playing-card games, so please come and help us with this Juneteenth celebration. Thank you and please feel free to contact me for more information, as I’m in the phone book.
Ambrose M. Bennett
Kagman III, Saipan