By Daleel Jabir Muhammad
NEW YORK—A celebratory energy filled the streets of Harlem, New York, on Juneteenth.
“This is what Harlem feels like. This is what Harlem sounds like, this is what Harlem looks like. When Harlem is like this, conscious and united, nothing can stop us,” Student Minister Arthur Muhammad from Muhammad Mosque No. 7 declared to the press, political leaders and community who gathered for a news conference.
This had set the tone for what followed to be a great day in Harlem, celebrating the kickoff for the Juneteenth parade in Harlem with various floats, music, vendors, activities, historical and educational references to the Pioneers and ancestors who toiled to make this holiday possible.
“On behalf of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, a man who has labored hard and brought Black consciousness to this city of Harlem, the city of New York for a long time. It is so fitting that we are celebrating Juneteenth in front of the Harlem Heritage Center,” Student Minister Arthur said.
“For when you go inside this center, you see and feel Black struggle. The paintings and pictures of those who fought and struggled for our liberation is what this freedom day should teach us. I want us to be clear that Juneteenth is not the Black People’s 4th of July. Because the 4th of July celebrates America’s colonists’ victory and independence over Britain’s control in 1776,” he said.
“We were victims freed by an enemy in 1865. Juneteenth, which represents June 19th, was when the last of the enslaved Africans that were bought over here in shackles who were told that they were Emancipated by a decree signed by then-President Lincoln in 1863. It took nearly two-and-a-half years to deliver and to enforce in Galveston, Texas.
So, what Juneteenth should represent is that the struggle continues because if we were really free, we would not have freedom fighters like Elombe Brath on that wall, freedom fighters like the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. on that wall. There are pictures of the great freedom fighters Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth and the great Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X on that wall in this Harlem Heritage Center,” Student Minister Arthur continued.
But the fight is not over.
“Today, we still have to march on with our freedom fighters like the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan because, as a people, we are emancipated, which means to free from someone’s hands but not from someone’s control.
We have to control our destiny, but we can’t control it if we don’t own. We can’t own if we’re not united. We can’t be united if we don’t respect one another. We have a lot of work to do and the struggle continues,” Student Minister Arthur added.
Even with a holiday, there is still more work to do to educate, help and heal the Black community.
“Juneteenth is now a holiday, that we commemorate, that we recognize and on a day we educate. The legislation has been passed and the Legislature and the people who have been working for years to break these chains. There are a lot of chains.
We got chains of poverty, we got chains of incarceration, we have chains of substance and drug abuse, chains of mental health, chains of gun violence. All of these chains remain to be broken and we have to free from them. That’s what this is about,” New York State Senator Cordell Cleare said.
Another lawmaker chimed in as well. Relating to housing and gentrification in Harlem, New York State Assemblyman Alfred Taylor said: “There has to be a Black consciousness in order for Harlem to remain alive.”
Iesha Sekou, founder of The Harlem Street Corner Resources, also shared on the matter.
“This is the celebration of Juneteenth. This is not just the celebration of the ending of slavery. It is a reminder that before slavery, we were kings and queens, mathematicians, astrologists, scientists, and all of that,” she said. “We’re letting our youth and everyone know that we didn’t come to America as slaves but skilled at that. We came here knowing, intelligent, speaking different tribal languages.
So, we want you to know that we don’t stand in a place of shame, we stand in a place of power. Juneteenth is a celebration of our life, our freedom and who we are and embracing our ancestors here on this soil where we are now. The freedom is in knowing who we are and how we connect as a people, whether Africans, Caribbeans, African Americans or others.”
As she led the youth, elders, and community leaders in a highly spirited chant before boarding the parade floats, she continued: “We raise our Black fists up for unity and one community. Victory is ours as we celebrate our history.”
Queen Earthly Jewels from the Nation of Gods and Earths invited the Jr. FOI, the MGT and GCC, Student Minister Arthur Muhammad and the FOI from Muhammad Mosque No. 7 to share the stage and space of her float as they celebrated Juneteenth with a parade through Harlem.
“This is my first time being honored as a Grand Marshall and I want to thank Brother Daleel Jabir Muhammad for nominating me for the works that I do with the children of Harlem in The 22 Points Team Youth Program,” she said.
“It was an honor to be a part of a Community Collective of Organizations to celebrate Juneteenth in New York City.”
History has been made in Harlem for the first time, The Black Liberation Flag (red, black, and green) was raised at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building and at 16 other New York State Office Buildings on Juneteenth.