Today, Bluphoria’s frontman Reign LaFreniere shares a special essay on the importance of Juneteenth and recognizing Black independence, his own lived experiences with racism and prejudice, and his hopes around this holiday moving forward.
Hailing from Eugene, Oregon, Bluphoria is an alternative rock band with blues rock and psychedelic rock influences, currently signed to EDGEOUT/UMe. They consist of lead guitarirst and vocalist Reign LaFreniere, rhythm guitarist Dakota Landrum, drummer Dani Janae, and bassist Rex Wolf. Founded at the University of Oregon in spring 2019, the band quickly gained popularity around Eugene and Portland, as well as the Bay Area.
“Juneteenth and Black Independence“
For some people in the United States Juneteenth wasn’t known about until it was federally recognized in 2021.
After a global pandemic kept everyone inside and away from the world these past few years, this country has been in a period of revelation. Revelations on its economic systems, the rights of those around us, and the persistence of systemic racism that continues to plague Black people to this day.
This holiday, in some sense, represents all that is wrong with American ignorance. It is quite similar to how, after the civil rights movement, a lot of people stopped assuming work had to be done and denied the growth this country needs to endure.
Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19th is the day that the last slaves were actually freed after their emancipation. This, unfortunately, took roughly two or three years until Black people in Texas were finally freed. It was this willful ignorance of the government and people who chose to assume that the problem was solved that allowed for the continued suffering of Black Americans years after their supposed independence. The federal acknowledgment of Juneteenth as a holiday should not fall into this same ignorance that has been prevalent in this country since its conception. We are not done. The fight still continues and as much as this may seem like progress to many outside of the Black community it can easily be seen as an excuse to not further discussions and systemic solutions to racism in America. Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1866 and it has only now been recognized after this entire country had to come to terms with the fact that Black people today are still suffering.
Racism isn’t just slurs and prejudices; it isn’t like the Hollywood representations of Black struggle,
although it very much can be. It is pervasive throughout communities who fall into this ignorance of thinking that their work is done. Even in communities that try to center these conversations, they can still be equally as blinded.
Growing up Black in America, I was quick to experience this. For most of my life, I gave a lot of people the benefit of the doubt when it came to these things. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I too started to realize how bad it actually has been for me. Trust me, I still have had my fair share of being slurred at in the street and victim to blatant ignorance and prejudice.
There, unfortunately, is subconscious racism within our communities that people refuse to acknowledge that I have experienced while living on the west coast. I don’t say these things to exaggerate my struggles or complain without a solution, I say these things because in itself Juneteenth is evidence of this complacency that I don’t want to continue to see in this country. This holiday’s acknowledgment can either serve as progress or evidence of this country’s ignorance. I hope it is not the latter.
Juneteenth is a day we can celebrate, but that we must not co-opt.
We must not use it to sell a heartless product or use it to feel as though our work is done. It should be a celebration for many but a stark reminder for some. Black people in this country are still not free, but I hope that we can be and I believe in America’s ability to fix this problem.
For the last few years, it has felt that hope might be lost, but I know for the Black community that is all we ever have. We fought and bled for a country that has continuously exploited us but we still believe in it, and I believe that we can succeed. – Reign LaFreniere, Bluphoria
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