As I look at the world right now, I see a lot of belief statements and acknowledgment of past hurts—a reckoning to finally accept that we have much work to do as a nation where it pertains to racism and social justice. Some of what we are witnessing is performative allyship, but I am hoping that words become actions, and we begin to see a shift to authentic allyship—a commitment to no longer just talk about it, but to be about it!
You see, long before George Floyd awakened the consciousness of America’s soul, we Black Americans were fully cognizant of our troubled, storied and triumphant past. And we are, at this moment, cautiously optimistic.
When I learned I would be having a son, my joy was coupled with the fear that one day, he would be perceived as a threat. We have been wholly conscious of it all: Trayvon, Tamir, Sandra, Philando, Medgar, Martin, Malcolm, Ahmaud, Breonna, and George were always more than hashtags—they were us. We have been left to ask the question: What is freedom?
When the Emancipation Proclamation was made law in 1863, we believed we had truly earned our freedom. Jubilation rang in the streets upon hearing the news of our independence, although the news was delayed, we rejoiced in 1865. This was the first celebration of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
But for many years after emancipation, Black people suffered the indignities of Jim Crow and were terrorized through heinous crimes such as lynching, the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, the Race Riots of 1919, the looting and pillaging of Black-owned communities like Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and so many other times in our history that freedom was delayed.
So, I ask today: What is freedom?
We are happy that America has finally awoken to the plights that Black and Brown people have been subjected to since our arrival in this country.
We encourage you to see this moratorium as a call to action, a call to teach, a call to love and a call to finally grant true freedom.
Let’s commit to allowing this time, this Juneteenth, to be a true reckoning through a celebration of OUR collective freedom—freedom from injustice, freedom from racism, freedom from oppression, freedom from hate, freedom in the very sense of the word—the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint!
In doing this, we will finally honor and recognize a very important holiday—our collective independence day.
So I challenge you to lean in, learn, celebrate, and collaborate this Juneteenth, and continue the work ahead because it will not be easy.
But it is time to leave the dark past behind as we embrace a new way forward, finally realizing these prophetic words from the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when we allow this to happen, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March on Washington, 1963
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