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Coming up on "Connections:" Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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12:00: Special programming — “How Black People Built American Democracy: A Juneteenth Celebration”

1:00: Special programming — “Someday, Will We Ever Be Free? Juneteenth with Opal Lee”

We bring you special national programming on this Juneteenth holiday.

In the first hour, the promise of American democracy could not be fulfilled until all Americans were free. Following the moment of Black liberation marked by Juneteenth, Black Americans began the ongoing project of securing and protecting their rights to vote, and to lead. This Juneteenth, join “Notes From America with Kai Wright” to trace the lineage of our democracy being actualized to the period after emancipation, when political leadership like that of Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan emerged and began to shape the potential and the power of the Black vote on our nation. Recorded live at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church – a historically Black house of worship in Houston where Jordan was a member – host Wright and Jordan biographer Mary Ellen Curtin explore the legacy of the first Black woman elected to the Texas senate after Reconstruction. They also discuss how Black voters continue to shape politics in an election year that's crucial to the sustainability of our democracy.

Then in the second hour, the grandmother of Juneteenth, Opal Lee, joins a special edition of “I SEE U” and shares her perspective on the commercialization of this cultural event one year after she paved the way for it to become a federal holiday. Many view Juneteenth as a celebration for slaves in Texas who finally received word on June 19, 1865, that they were free. But it took more than two years for that news to reach the ears of those enslaved after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. While it took several more months for slavery to be abolished in 1865, a system known as convict leasing had emerged in southern states where Blacks were forced into unpaid labor. Historians note that these factors, along with ongoing research, provide evidence of how slavery played a major role in building this nation's economy. Moreover, some experts argue that slavery – mixed with a host of other discriminatory economic practices like redlining and segregation – contribute to an already large racial wealth gap that continues to grow even wider. Complicating matters, state lawmakers have proposed legislation that attempt to regulate how teachers and educators can discuss those histories in classrooms across the country. Stay tuned as “I SEE U” takes a provocative look at Juneteenth. We invite the renowned schoolteacher and counselor who was the driving force in making Juneteenth a national holiday, 95-year-old Opal Lee. We also examine the commercialization of this holiday and what efforts are needed for progress with an unguarded chat with Morgan State University's journalism professor, Jared Ball, Ph.D.; and President/CEO of Center of Black Equity in Washington, D.C., Earl D. Fowlkes, Jr.

Megan Mack is the executive producer of "Connections with Evan Dawson" and live/televised engagement programming.

Connections with Evan Dawson

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