What Juneteenth means to me: A Q&A with Benjamin Pasley

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In earlier years it was called June  Nineteenth and over the course of time was shortened to become Juneteenth a celebration of the formal abolishment of slavery that took place in Galveston, TX, June 19, 1865. With President Joe Biden signing legislation establishing Juneteenth as a U.S. federal holiday, and Governor Sununu recently signing a bill declaring Juneteenth a state holiday, supporters find further validation to amplify and honor Black ancestry.

Manchester NH celebrates the value of black life with its second annual Juneteenth celebration with co-director of the Manchester Juneteenth Block Party, Benjamin Pasley.  

Ben Pasley is co-director of Manchester’s annual Juneteenth celebration. Courtesy Photo

CC: What in particular would you like the community to take away from this year’s celebration?

One thing I would like the community to take away from this year’s celebration is that this isn’t a trend. This isn’t a political stunt or grab to attract a certain demographic, this is a celebration –  to celebrate freedom that wasn’t given to us. This is a celebration for people of color, not to exclude any else but the mentality is Black first when in so many areas in life we aren’t.

CC: How were you introduced to the holiday and what does Juneteenth mean to you?

I was introduced to the holiday by self-education. Last year during the Aubrey Graham and George Floyd murders, a fire of self-discovery, black history, an understanding of who we are as a people and justice ignited and I’ve been feeding the flame ever since. That’s what led me to discover Juneteenth. Juneteenth means to me what Independence Day means to Americans. Yes, I am an American but I am an African-American and Juneteenth resonates with me more as when my ancestors were freed from slavery.

CC: What suggestions could you share about how to respectfully observe Juneteenth?

To be completely honest, I believe this is a day for white people to just observe, respectfully. No questions, no what does this mean, no advice, no explanations … if you want to join in celebration just enjoy being in the presence of your black friends and acquaintances and celebrate their joy from this day.


About this Author

Constance Cherise

Constance Cherise is a freelance writer and contributor for Turner Classic MoviesSee her work here.