Why Black Business Expo (on Juneteenth) is so meaningful

Annual event, sponsored by African American Chamber, to be held June 13 in Teaneck

The term “Let Us Not Forget” has been used in the past as a theme of remembrance for those that have suffered a devastating loss. In some circles, other tragedies may appear more significant and, if not, have provided some recompense to the mourners. My purpose today is to share a few thoughts on Juneteenth and its significance to not only the 30 million Black people in the U.S., but the over 300 million others that reside in this country and around the world.

In 1619, Black people arrived in the U.S. on cargo ships shackled with little mobility, taken from their place of birth, culture and language with the sole purpose of being leveraged to industrialize America and to create generational wealth. My ancestors labored under inhuman conditions to produce raw materials that were converted into products and services. Additionally, these same individuals that were kidnapped from their homeland constructed roadways, bridges, tunnels, monuments and infrastructure for water, sewer, transportation, telecommunications and lifesaving instruments.

Several hundred years later, in 1863, through the diplomatic efforts of Frederick Douglass and Robert Smalls, in concert with President Abraham Lincoln, slavery as we knew it was abolished, through the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted hundreds of thousands of my ancestors — the contributors to the greatness of America — their freedom … only for them to discover that over 200,000 of my ancestors remained bounded in this enterprise called slavery in Galveston, Texas.

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Click here to learn more about the Juneteenth Black Business Expo on June 13, or to register.

Once notified of this grave oversight by Gen. Gordon Granger, Black people were free to pursue a different existence than the one they had grown accustomed to. A chance to explore a country that had been transformed and well positioned to now lead the world, in part due to the sacrifice of their ancestors.

In 1900, Booker T. Washington established the Negro Business League, which consisted of 40 chapters between Maryland and Texas promoting free enterprise, entrepreneurism and capitalistic activities — like the world’s largest business federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1912 and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, founded in 2007.

We ask you to join us at our 2024 Juneteenth Black Business Expo, at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, to experience American history with its tumult, tragedies, resilience and triumph. Our collective experience in the U.S. and New Jersey culminated in a value proposition that is not only informative and transformative, but is still the envy of the state and the world.

Let us not forget our journey, because it continues today, and the future is even brighter when we acknowledge the past with an eye toward what is still possible, notwithstanding the obstacles and challenges.

Please support the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey as we pursue a mission to make our state, and New Jersey, more competitive.

John Harmon is the founder and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.