“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” — Order #3
The idea of freedom can be a complicated one. One could argue that there are limits to freedom — we are not free to harm others at will, for example. Freedom within community means sacrifice, at times.
One concept of freedom that should not be in question has to do with the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. In America, these are rights that are “unalienable,” though they have been and still are unevenly applied.
In the case of the enslaved, the road to freedom was littered with the bodies of millions of our ancestors and hundreds of thousands of soldiers. We realize that pursuing freedom can be a protracted process, as even the news of “freedom” delivered on June 19th, 1865, was sullied by the fact that it came over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The full absorption of this news was followed by an additional delay in granting actual freedom (they wanted to wait until AFTER that year’s harvest), lynchings, terror, and violence against the newly freed. The first celebration was actually a year later, in 1866.
As we fast forward to a time where Juneteenth has gotten more publicity than ever before, we would be remiss if we didn’t take a look at the broader question: what has America done to secure and further freedoms? What can each of us do?
We must have dialogues within our own spheres of influence to ensure that we have a common definition of freedom. We must continue to learn about our history, even the uncomfortable parts, and share how that history impacts us today. We should engage in meaningful actions on the local, state, and federal levels to champion attitudes and legislation that guarantee and protect FULL freedoms for everyone.
The freedom to move or be still. The freedom to celebrate or mourn. The freedom to talk about the history of our country in a candid and honest way that brings about deeper understanding. At Cheetah Digital, through those conversations and led by BL@C (Black Leaders at Cheetah), we are starting to do that work. We are creating an environment where people can learn and grow in an atmosphere of respect. By having these conversations in our workspaces, by educating and building alliances with the people we interact with every day, we can start to ensure that Black people in our offices, friend circles, and communities are given those promised unalienable rights completely, fairly — and freely.