Juneteenth, the celebration of African Americans being freed from slavery, is now passed, but the issues that affected African Americans during slavery and shortly thereafter have not passed.
The celebration of freedom came with a cost of uncertainty. Once free, now what? Where do you go when your family has been raised on a plantation for hundreds of years? Freedom does not equate to equality. Slaves were not afforded reparations for their years of servitude, so they did not have money to start their new lives. Many had to resort to the new form of slavery, which was manual labor with no guarantee of being paid. The words "all men created equal" did not ring the same for freed slaves. They were not granted the right to vote; they were not allowed the rights that all free Americans were given. African Americans were not viewed as equal.
Some in American feel African Americans should just move on past their slavery ties and get over one of the original sins of America. Many think African Americans have used slavery as a crutch to explain why the amount of wealth freed African Americans after the Civil War has not increased by 1 percent. Studies show in 1863, Black Americans owned half of 1 percent of the national wealth. Today, that number is roughly 1.5 percent. Why is that? Is it due to African Americans, whose ancestors helped build this country, being lazy and not wanting a better life for themselves? Or is it something else? It is a combination of factors?
African Americans, like most Americans, want a better life for themselves and their lineage. Slavery and the policies that came out of slavery were crippling to the very soul of African Americans. Slavery has cause hundreds of years of post-traumatic depression for African Americans. The freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule, but the slaves who were able to get land had it ripped back away from them by President Andrew Johnson.
Land is wealth that can be passed down for generations. Land ownership builds communities, schools, and commerce. To have land is to have the American dream. Freed slaves were not able to realize the American dream.
The current African American community is still crippled by unequal housing programs, financial disinvestment into communities, prison and justice system inequalities, and education disparities. That does not mean African Americans have given up, because they remain resilient to achieve the American dream. As we had allies during the Civil War and during the Civil Rights Era, African Americans are still welcoming ally support to end systematic oppression and equalities. African Americans must remain vigilant to take every opportunity available in this country to succeed.
As current allies learn more about the difficulties of African Americans, it is important that we all not limit our compassion for others. A stronger African American community will ensure a stronger America.
Corey Carolina is an NSU graduate, North Tulsa entrepreneur and activist, and owner of Carolina Food Co., which produces Toasted Wine Fruit Spreads. He is also an author, his first book being "The Absent Father."