Today is Juneteenth… an official State holiday in Texas. Growing up in Texas, I can remember Juneteenth celebrations in the small, country town in which I was raised. There would definitely be BBQ, cold beer, and for some reason as tradition dictated… strawberry soda pop.
The story of Juneteenth is an interesting one. It celebrates the day that Major General Gordon Granger landed with his troops in Galveston on June 19, 1865 to finally enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas which had been signed into law by President Lincoln in Washington, DC… two and a half years earlier. Seriously.
There are several stories about why there was such a delay for slaves to obtain their freedom in Texas. Often told is a story about a messenger who was murdered on his way to deliver the news that the slaves had been freed. Another theory is that slave owners banded together and deliberately withheld the news for economically selfish reasons and yet another is that federal troops actually waited for slave owners to reap the benefits of one more cotton harvest before enforcing the law.
Whatever the reason, the news sent shock waves emanating out from the docks in Galveston but was quickly followed by a long-awaited, collective jubilation. This huge celebration became the tradition we now call Juneteenth. This day is so revered by Texans, especially descendants of former slaves, that many still make a pilgrimage every year to Galveston to remember and honor this historic day.
As the Major General addressed the crowds in Galveston, these were his first few words…
“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
Reading this paragraph, I was struck by the sentence, “the connection existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.” It reminded me that today we are free even if we feel bound in our work or relationships. We always have choices- thank goodness. We have choices about who we work for and who works for us. And many, many people sacrificed to make sure that this was and still is the case. I think it’s a disgrace to blame anyone else for our choice to stay in a job or keep someone on your team when it is not a good fit, and I try never to allow fear to steer my decision if I know it’s a bad fit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked in plenty of jobs where I was unhappy and knew it was not my final stop because there was nothing else available, and I had children to feed. But freedom is not just in the decision to leave but also in taking responsibility for the decision to stay and owning it 100% until you can make a different choice.
Great self-leaders know this is an important mindset not only for themselves but also to assist others in their life. We have almost daily opportunities to show people who blame, complain, and gossip that there is a much more empowered platform from which to operate. Gently steering the conversation to what might be possible is a great way to improve the culture in your team at work and in your family and circle of friends.
Today and this week, celebrate Juneteenth and all it stands for. Take a stand for living a life of empowerment and always operating “at choice.” Stop blaming anyone else for your state of employment, happiness, fitness, or any other part of your life that you don’t like. Gently and kindly help others to look at what’s possible instead of what’s not and to step into their future by owning their choices. This is how great teams support one another… not by agreeing about what’s wrong but agreeing what could be right or made right.
Oh, and when you’re celebrating Juneteenth… don’t forget the Texas BBQ and some ice-cold strawberry soda!
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