TULSA, Okla. — While voters, politicians, and city leaders have been discussing the Trump campaign rally that will be held at the BOK Center on June 19 next week, members of Tulsa's black community have been preparing for the African American holiday Juneteenth on that same day, which celebrates when all African-Americans were released from slavery in 1865.
83-year-old Tulsa native Gertie Palmer says this year, the holiday means so much more because of the current climate in the country.
"We have to stay positive and thankful," Palmer said as she admired her array of family photos. "Our younger generation has it so much better."
For her, looking at each generation of her family is how she sees how far they have come.
"See, now that I am older, I tell my little ones you have to understand what your parent forepart went through to get you where you are today,” Palmer said.
For her, like her relative before her, life was very different than it is now.
"See, now you can go on a bus and sit where ever you want to sit. See, there was a time where I couldn’t do that, and now you can go into a restaurant and eat where you want to each," Palmer said. "There was a time where I couldn’t do that."
She thinks about that, even more, every year during June, especially on June 19, "Jubilee Day," when the last slaves were finally told they were free, two years after it had been abolished.
“It was really abusive what was done," Palmer said. "For them to keep the truth from black folk just so they could have them work for free."
She says this year, the celebration of freedom is even more important to her family and families that look like hers as a Trump campaign rally has been scheduled for that same day.
"He just picked a rotten time to do this. Of course, he knows about Juneteenth. He knows how important it is to black folk. He could have made it tomorrow or some other time next week,” Palmer said. "So, we just have to look out for each other and hope it will be okay."
This is why the Oklahoma Black Caucus is calling the black community to celebrate Juneteenth through unity.
“We're not going to be distracted by the divisiveness of racism," District 73 Representative Regina Goodwin said. "Do not be befuddled or confused by what is going on."
The organization held a press conference that was more of a call to action for the African American community on Friday on the grounds of the 1921 Race Massacre memorial.
The caucus urged the community to still positively celebrate the holiday by not letting the current coronavirus pandemic prevent people from voting.
“That [voting] is the freedom that we have today too exercise our right," Goodwin said. "There is nothing fraudulent about an absentee ballot. There is nothing wrong about an absentee ballot during COVID-19.”
Something Palmer strongly supports this year more than ever.
"Folks died for this opportunity," Palmer said. "We won't be totally free until everyone gets their butts down to those polls and votes."
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