Juneteenth ‘a historical experience sharing’ »Albuquerque Journal
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Joe Powdrell has celebrated June 16 most of his life.
A child growing up in Texas, Powdrell, now the owner of Mr. Powdrell’s barbecue in Albuquerque, listened to stories explaining the significance of the date and learned the brutal history that preceded it.
In fact, as a 23-year-old soldier during the Vietnam War, Powdrell was punished for hosting a small holiday celebration, which commemorates the end of slavery.
For Powdrell, 73, June 19 extends beyond barbecues and civic events and instead represents a time for the black community to connect with each other and themselves.
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“I had to explain to my commander that this is not a riot,” he said of his experience of hosting a June 17 celebration in Vietnam. “It is a sharing of historical experience, of spiritual experience that the descendants of slavery have in common.
Powdrell, the founder of the first June 17 celebration in Albuquerque in 1976, said that while the party is now surrounded by fanfare, it still represents a time for the black community to take ownership and tell its story.
Celebrated on June 19 for the past 136 years, Juneteenth marks the day the last group of slaves in Texas learned that slavery had been abolished. As of this week, it is also the most recent federal holiday. President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a law recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
In honor of the day, various celebrations are being held across the state this weekend, including a three-day event held at the Civic Plaza in Albuquerque.
But amid the celebrations, Cathryn McGill, founder of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council, said the vacation was still a time to reflect on the past and work in the continued pursuit of freedom.
She said passing the legislation is recognition and a step in the right direction, but more work needs to be done at national and state levels.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where we forget how long it took to get to where we are right now, which got us here. We rest on the shoulders of our ancestors, ”said McGill. “And also the fact that a lot of the issues we face are still here despite having an MLK day.”
Marsha Hardeman, a professor at the University of New Mexico who helped organize the first June 15 celebrations in Albuquerque, said she was happy to know that more and more people are learning more about the holiday and that ‘she hopes that recognition of the holiday at the federal level will continue to bring people together.
“As tough as the past four years have been, where there seems to have been such an energy devoted to divide and divide, we are so much better off when we can put that aside and come together to celebrate each other. others, ”she said.
Powdrell said that while the holidays have gained momentum since he first hosted the Albuquerque celebration in the 1970s, he is concerned about the motives behind the designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
“I don’t like it when we celebrate something for… years and then they come and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to make this a national holiday,’” he said. “It’s already national.
Powdrell said that with the nationalization of the holiday he was concerned that the black community would move away from organizing and teaching each other about the true meaning of the date and that the difficult conversations surrounding the brutality of slavery are not discussed.
“If you are explaining the Emancipation Proclamation, you have to talk about slavery. If you talk about slavery, you have to talk about raped women, people killed, ”he said. “… So as a child I get a history lesson, I get a spiritual lesson in how you stand up, how you embrace what is right and appropriate in life not just for yourself but you understand that the other right you have, the same responsibility you have.