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Alex Young Blog: What Does Juneteenth Mean To Me?

By Alex Young | June 19, 2022, 3 p.m. (ET)

Alex Young competes during the men's hammer throw qualification round at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 2, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

Juneteenth was the true Independence Day for the United States, as there were many of Americans that were never truly free on July 4, 1776. That day of freedom did not include those who were enslaved and devastated by the racist systems established on this land. Juneteenth is for my ancestors that fought tirelessly to regain their freedom in a land that never loved them. Juneteenth is a day to commemorate the legacy of freedom fighters that have been overshadowed and left out of the textbooks. Juneteenth is only a small step in the right direction to honor all Americans and their contributions to the United States.

My ancestors were contributors to the ideal of the United States of America. They believed strongly in their own personal and racial freedom, but I believe they felt strongly about the ideal of America. They believed that all men were created equal with certain unalienable rights. I say this as a living descendant of a Civil War veteran that fought for the Union to gain his freedom. He fought for equality and the advancement of Black people in this country, and he fought to make America a more perfect union.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – U.S. Declaration of Independence, Paragraph 2 (1776)

Juneteenth, June 19, 1865, is Independence Day as this was the final day in U.S. history in which everyone in this country was officially free. July 4 was a steeping stone to what we know as American freedom, but it was never the capstone to seal our freedom. Juneteenth is held close to my heart as my people were finally free. That was the first time in the history of America that ALL people were granted their first steps to freedom.

This country leaves my soul conflicted. I say this as one who has had family members fight tooth and nail for this country only to be treated like foreigners within the very country they fought to protect. I know this country continues to press forward and steps to change are taking place. Juneteenth is a solid reminder that no matter the circumstance Black people have made their claim to freedom in a not-so perfect union. That our lives are forever intertwined in the very fabrics of this country. Juneteenth is a celebration of victory, joy and most importantly progress for a truly equable future.

Alex Young
Men’s Hammer Throw, 2020 Olympian, JP

Alex Young

 

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