This year, in 2020, Juneteenth serves as a special day to remember and commemorate. With so much taking place around social distancing and race discrimination, the timing of this holiday is one that urges us to pause and reflect. Juneteenth celebrates the June 19, 1865 arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and their intention to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation made official nearly eighteen months earlier.
Events of the last few weeks have given new energy to examining the Emancipation Proclamation and the painfully slow progress it made in reaching the edges of our country.
It took much more time -- years upon years of time -- to move from a bold and necessary Emancipation Proclamation to a set of Constitutional guarantees that clarified what those freedoms really meant. And, it has taken another 155 years to ensure these freedoms are relentlessly pursued and protected. This included the Civil War, three amendments and work to turn those words into actions.
This quest continues.
We are far from done. Our country’s deeply flawed system of legislating and policing is just one example where work is desperately needed. As educators, we would testify to the equally flawed institution of schools and schooling.
Today is especially important for thinking deeply about emancipation and about the past and present violations of human freedoms so pervasive in our society. Black people continue to experience racism in many aspects of life, including education, which can be seen through the many racial disparities that persist and spread today. It makes it difficult to speak and impossible to be silent.
We have always struggled with the term emancipation. It seemed wrong to think that Black people needed to receive a gift of emancipation from a President and, ultimately, from a government; particularly one that was guided by the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and the rest of the Constitution. Freedom is the natural right for everyone on this planet. It is not a gift from the government, but inherent in our being, something to be celebrated, respected, and protected by that government and the society that enables that government. You cannot have civil and economic rights without human rights.
Big Picture Learning schools will continue to be focused on liberation. A liberation that is witnessed in observing our young people pursue their own interests, develop their own talents, take on new responsibilities, and lead fulfilling lives -- without the shackles of a predetermined curricular path. BPL students are entrusted to play a major role in their education; to challenge, innovate and engage in the practices of activism so needed in our world today.
We ask that all members of the Big Picture Learning community, and our extended family of partners and friends, take a few moments today to reflect on the many freedoms—hard fought, well earned, yet still insufficient—our schools have been able to provide to their students and to think about the ways our schools can point the way for our nation to ensure and protect those basic freedoms for all.