With the recent protest, police brutality, and discussions of reformation and legislation, Juneteenth has been highlighted and brought to the attention of many across this country. Whether you are in the company of those that celebrate Juneteenth even bigger than the 4th of July or if you are one that had no idea what it was until it became a trending hashtag, there is something for all of us to do to honor this significant date in American History.
June 19, 1865, marked the official end of the enslavement of African Americans in the United States. Although January 1, 1863, was the date Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves, not everyone was so willing to obey the new law of the land. Unlike the glorious and swift transition that may have been insinuated in the history textbooks and Hollywood movies, it took over two years for the last slaves to be freed in our country. That date is June 19th – Juneteenth!
So, what can we do right NOW, because, first of all, I didn’t know much about this holiday until now, and second of all, it is June 19, 2020, and there are no large gatherings and celebrations due to COVID-19?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1- Call Someone Special
Today may not be the day to go and visit your matriarch and patriarch family members, but today may just be the day to CALL them! Call your grandmother, grandfathers, great uncles, and great aunties and start a conversation about your family history. See how far back they can take you with their account of your family’s mark in this great country. Record those conversations if you can. Put them on speakerphone and have your children take part in the conversation.
2- Talk About It
Oral history was once the only history passed through generations. When was the last time you told YOUR story to someone? We get so caught up in our busy lives that we very seldom have the chance to sit down with family and just talk. Find someone to talk to about what’s going on now because history is being made. Discuss things that you can do to make a change. Keep it positive and progressive!
3- Write About It
Maybe you are not a talker.
Grab your journal and write your thoughts. Don’t know where to start? Here are a couple of prompts:
- You are one of the last slaves to be freed. What is your response? What are your plans and dreams? What is your hope for your descendants?
- You have just found out that your ancestor was one of the last to be freed on June 19, 1865. Write a letter to that ancestor! What would you tell them about the impact of current events in your life?
- Compare the timeline of the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth to the timeline of the Black Lives Matter movement. We are in the process of “transition”. How long do you think it will take for the equivalent of our next Juneteenth?
4- Read for Inspiration
Juneteenth is all about educating ourselves on who we are as a people and a country. Read a nonfictional book by a black author for inspiration. The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin, 1963, is an excellent short read and some of the parallels with today’s struggles may surprise you.
Another good one is Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi, 2016. This book may take a little more than one sitting to read; however, the information and insight that you will gather from the book are priceless. Both books are available in audio editions and through your public libraries.
5- Watch for Enlightenment
Let’s face it, it’s Friday and all we want to do is relax! How about you celebrate Juneteenth with a good movie? There are so many good movies about black history that are educational and touch the subject of racial injustice and systematic racism. If you have not taken the time to watch Ana Duverney’s award-winning When They See Us, then today is the day to do just that! Be ready to be moved to tears and rage, but it is a must-see.
Other great movies include The Hate U Give (fictional but very “real”), Selma, Hidden Figures, The Great Debaters, Glory, Remember the Titans, Pride, The Ghost of Mississippi, and Malcolm X. There are so many, I could go on, but you get the point – watch one today!
Don’t feel too bad if you are among the millions that had no idea what Juneteenth was until now. You didn’t know! You are forgiven!
Just remember the words of Dr. Maya Angelou when she said, “Do the best you can until you know better. And when you know better, do better”.
-Traci D. Fuller, Pearls and Pretty Pens
Little POW-wow, Pearls of Wisdom
- The 4th of July is celebrated as our National Independence Day. Many African-Americans feel that Juneteenth (June 19th) is our true Independence Day. Do you feel it is important to acknowledge and celebrate both?
- Do you think God is concerned with the racial tension our country faces today? How can we as Christians mend the gap from both sides?
Tune My Heart…
Glory is the theme song of the movie, Selma. It was written by John Legend and Common. This powerful song crosses generations. As I listened to it this morning, I could visualize these words on the hearts of the last slaves freed on June 19, 1865.
I am drawn to the lyrics:
“Now the war is not over, victory isn’t won
And we’ll fight on to the finish, then when it’s all done
We’ll cry glory, oh glory!”
I really believe that one day we will cry glory – we will ALL cry GLORY! Enjoy!