Photo Credit: Juneteenth Celebration in Emancipation Park in Houston's Fourth Ward 1880 (Wikimedia Commons)

Juneteenth is a celebration of Black joy, but also a call-to-action

Environmental racism is linked to American slavery, here’s how.
Posted on June 19, 2023 
By Mary Black

Analysis: For me, Juneteenth is a celebration of Black joy. It’s also a call-to-action for climate and environmental justice for people of the African diaspora.

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, finally learned of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Juneteenth marks a pivotal moment in American history: the end of chattel slavery. However as many of us know, it did not signify the end of racial harm for newly freed Black Americans. Black codes, Jim Crow, racial redlining, urban renewal programs, and the systemic dispossession of Black land and property, all add context and meaning to Black Liberation and the gravity of Juneteenth.

What a lot of people don't realize is that environmental racism is linked to American slavery. Enslaved Africans found freedom only to find out that their communities would become sacrifice zones for over-pollution and over-policing. This is a form of white supremacist violence and racial capitalist exploitation.

For me, Juneteenth is a celebration of Black joy. And it's also a call-to-action for climate and environmental justice for people of the African diaspora. It's also a reminder that Black and environmental liberation are intricately linked. 

If our ecological crisis is a result of oppression and exploitation, then our collective liberation is rooted in a framework of Black radicalism which dismantles racialized capitalism by giving communities everything they need to be able to thrive. It also places justice at the forefront of decision-making.

On this Juneteenth and everyday, it is both radical and essential to imagine a future where every Black individual is free from the oppression of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation. A world where Black joy knows no bounds, and healing is plentiful.

Learn more about the link between environmental justice and racial justice by tuning into the People over Plastic Podcast. Listen to Season 3, Episode 2, “The Hot Seat” featuring ecologist and "Cop City" activist Jacqueline Echols here.

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© People over Plastic 2024
© People over Plastic 2023