June 19, 2023

In 1863, as blood poured and body counts climbed, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring more than three million enslaved people living in Confederate states finally free.

But two years passed before African Americans in Texas got word. They were free, but didn’t know it.

Today, we are free but often fail to fully know our hard-won freedoms, such as by not exercising and protecting our right to vote. It’s understandable, given the seemingly inexhaustible energy expended trying to roll back other people’s freedoms.

In the past year, we’ve seen spirited attacks on voting rights in the attempts at eliminating convenient drop boxes and in trying to disqualify mail-in ballots date-stamped on Election Day but not arriving within three days. In 2021, the legislature passed new voting district maps brazenly announced and designed to favor one party over the other, on top of cracking minority districts in the most diverse county in the Free State.

Extremists in our state have abandoned the notion that all Kansans deserve political representation, with some explicitly stating their desire to make Kansas as unwelcoming and unsafe to vulnerable populations as possible.

So yes, it’s understandable if some people don’t exactly feel free since so many people in power seem hell-bent on denying freedoms, advantages and opportunities.

Those incredible people in Texas back in June of 1865 didn’t know they were free, but we do—and we must act accordingly by voting, by volunteering, and working with groups like the ACLU of Kansas fighting daily to protect those freedoms.

So, as Juneteenth approaches, let’s think about freedom not as a destination, but as journey, one requiring our constant attention, consciousness, and vigilance.