Berkeley Juneteenth Festival Publicity Chair, Ms. Delores Nochi Cooper Edwards, accepted a ‘Slave Apology’ resolution from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, on behalf of the Berkeley Juneteenth Festival Association.
Having being honored that the Board selected her to accept the resolution; Edwards noted that, “my initial response was a flood of overwhelming emotion.”
“As sincere as the gesture appeared, and as honorable as it was for the Board to have the insight and foresight to extend this olive branch,” said Edwards, my initial thinking was:
“How can we (African Americans) accept this apology; how can this apology undo the atrocities of slavery 148 years after the Emancipation Proclamation; and how can this apology undo the impact slavery have had on the entire fabric of America?”
“After all, the trauma of the slave experience; the Jim Crow legislation; racism and discrimination, have not yet been eradicated from the body politic.”
Edwards added that “this ‘apology’ should serve as a reminder to all of us that: 1) that freedom is a precious gift which should be cherished; 2) that prejudice and discrimination of any kind is inhumane; and that 3) the fight for freedom and equality must be continuous.
“We have come a mighty long way, but we still have a longer way to go,” she added. “Lest we forget, let us remember those who have paved the way before us, and who have shed blood for the freedoms we consider a given. We can’t go walking into the sunset singing “free at last” just yet, because it’s not over.”
Edwards quoted President John F. Kennedy in her remarks to the Board when she noted that: “Freedom is indivisible, and when one man (woman or child) is enslaved, (we) all are not free.” We are one, and what impacts one, impacts us all.”
“Therefore, this apology is accepted not only for African American citizens, but for all citizens of Alameda County, regardless of complexion, group, or language.”
During festival activities on June 26th, the ‘Slave Apology’ resolution will be read on stage in its entirety, and afterwards it will be placed in the Berkeley Juneteenth Association’s historical archives.