The word freedom was mentioned many times this past weekend. But the attention is on rewriting history itself from the perspective of the marginalized who have experienced the pain of oppression, injustice, the effects of slavery. Addressing historical amnesia, the vanishing of crucial memories, is necessary for bringing together histories that could be lost.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

The Juneteenth celebration, therefore, becomes a reminder of why we need to talk about the stories that are not told. More like the Black Lives Matter movement, the conversation related to Juneteenth is also happening elsewhere on the globe. On social media, I could see the debate about Europe’s partition of Africa reemerge, this time asking the crucial questions of whether or not the Europeans are telling the true stories.

European colonization of Africa has often told one-sided victorious rhetoric on the continent. Such as civilizing Africa, teaching the people  how to fish or how to farm. The stories of genocide and brutal violence are never told. This month we look at why we need the historical wrongs to be righted. While the freedom of African American slaves was happening in the United States, during a conference in Berlin from 1884-1885, the most powerful European leaders were in a room together to partition Africa; the intent was to acculturate the Africans into European civilization.

Most African countries have only become independent from the European colonization as recent as the 1960s.

Juneteenth, therefore, becomes a multicultural celebration for African immigrants in the United States. It brings us together to rewrite the history often told by powerful white men. This demands the resolve of the untold history. We know that U.S. history, for instance, is so fiercely contested because so much of it is unresolved. Same goes for every European colonizer. History that is supposed to bind these nations together is many times seen as just a myth. Rewriting the history requires a collection of individual testimonies and a revised collective memory.

I grew up in a community that idolized everything about Europe and the United States: their passports, their cities, their languages, their clothes, their music, their ways of life. Those who dressed like them and spoke like them could run for the highest offices in the continent and win an election. Authoritarian or not, it would always work with them. African leaders still prefer to travel to Europe for leisure or medical treatment, yet the bad effects of the slave trade and the partition of Africa is still relevant: territorial disputes that result in armed conflicts, corruption, famine, climate change, illegal fishing, military buildup and loss of culture.

Germany has recently officially recognized colonial-era Namibia genocide. This is a good step, but it may have come too late, when the victims are all gone. It is better than when the so-called victors deny the real occurrences of the history. Germany’s move is a step towards reconciling with history and its people. What Juneteenth gives us is not merely a recognition of dark history, but rather a reminder of the changes we can make when we start speaking up and bringing our voices together. This is what Namibia did to bring Germany to accept its wrong to the people of Namibia.

It is good to see Juneteenth finally receiving sufficient attention, drawing in other conversations surrounding injustice, slave trade and racial discrimination. Juneteenth shows that history should not only be celebrated, but it should also be reckoned with. Same for Black History Month, LGBT History Month, Native American Heritage Month. But history is not complete until the marginalized voices and their stories are included.

Comments are not available on this story.