Regarding the Banner’s recent editorial on the Roxbury Reunion/Juneteenth celebration at Franklin Park in June (“Roxbury Pride,” Editorial, July 17, 2008): The dual event is not, as the editorial stated, an unnatural mix of two disparate celebrations.
The twin celebration attracts a 90 percent African American crowd who gather to celebrate both their American roots and their Roxbury roots. However, even if the crowd grew to the point where 25 percent or more of attendees were Italian Americans or Irish Americans coming to celebrate their Roxbury roots, the two celebrations still have some meaning to all races.
Ironically, the annual Roxbury pride celebration is usually held during the same weekend as another proud local tradition: Bunker Hill Day, recognized on June 17.
I have been to five reunions now, and have gotten to celebrate my neighborhood roots with hundreds of old Roxbury folk.
When I was growing up, African Americans in Boston did not celebrate Juneteenth in large numbers. Around these parts, it is a relatively new holiday that has been morphed into the Roxbury Reunion.
While Roxbury’s pride day is a celebration for all comers, Juneteenth has become a way for Roxbury’s blacks to remember the struggle for freedom that African Americans have had to experience. The genesis of Juneteenth came following the Civil War more than 100 years ago, but the struggle for racial equality and political freedom continues to this day. Roxbury Irish and Italians look at the annual remembrance of the Battle of Bunker Hill, celebrated on June 17, in the same light.
Rather than segregating the annual Juneteenth, Roxbury Reunion and Bunker Hill Day celebrations one from the other, all of us who are proud to be Roxbury natives need to come together to celebrate all of them — to celebrate the love we share for a nurturing community that built us all up into adulthood, and the love we share for the ideals of America, those met and some, sadly, unmet.
As a community, we need to keep freedom in our thoughts in June by remembering Juneteenth, the 17th of June, and Roxbury Pride Day, rather than only one or another. The color of America is not white or black; it is red, as in the blood shed for a pair of ideals called individual liberty and economic freedom.