Operating in this segmented existence without considering its interconnectivity is a key element that continues to perpetuate events and the ongoing existence we’re presently in. One World. One Body of Nature. One Humanity. Class warfare breeds this dysfunctional caste system that has been outsourcing humanity. The outsourcing has produced this virus of sorts, contracting our innate abilities to certain proclivities of supremacy and entitlement. It is this type of dis-ease that must be addressed and be protested by all if we are going to have effective and long-term reconstructive transformation. This recent Juneteenth weekend has increased some hope of sorts. From pandemic to protests, the injustices of varying kinds of abuses have never been so widely acknowledged and discussed on local to global levels, or how these injustices affect persons of color directly, and humanity collectively.
Despite some public declarations regarding Juneteenth having not previously existed until recently, it actually has been in existence for some time, originated in 1865. Recognized as a state holiday or a special day of observance in 47 out of our 50 states in America, Juneteenth is one of America’s oldest days of recognition of past pains and pursuit of progress. Its purpose commemorates the proclamation that all enslaved persons in the United States were now free. It was a signifier of the end of the Civil War and the start of Reconstruction which was to be a more hopeful time for inclusion and progress. While the Emancipation Proclamation and the American Civil War defeated the Confederate states and freed slaves two and a half years prior, there were still locations that refused to comply. In response to this refusal, locations with a low presence of Union troops had to be outsourced to enforce this proclamation. On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger read the federal order in the city of Galveston, Texas proclaiming all enslaved persons were now free thus the birthing of this holiday, Juneteenth. The day or weekend includes learning activities, upliftment, service projects, varying types of foods, and commemorative events that are community friendly and awareness motivated.
The pandemic has, some would say, forced us to employ social distancing as a way to be healthy, but it could be said we’ve had varying levels of distancing as a part our shared history for centuries. Being distant from certain moral truths and how we should treat one another has been outsourced to other practices that are more aligned with greed, debaucherously uncooperative rationalizations, and other inhumane practices.
This COVID Conundrum:
C – onfusion. O – ppression. V – olatility. I – nsecurity. D – issonance
There has been a great deal of media and political rhetoric that has been largely divisive, encouraging an “us vs them” response. The language used is reform, but the actions are hugely combative and reactionary. To be clear; there is a time for confrontation and that time is and quite frankly has been upon us for some time. Confronting difficult and entrenched issues is the only way to handle divisive situations, but if one fights fire with fire, how could the end result be anything but fiery? It’s an interesting thing. So many strategies have been covertly and overtly used to keep us apart. Why are we not using similar strategies to repair and create connections and isolate those who’ve been tearing us apart?
On a recent Tuesday I was driving in a remote area not far from where I live, and I was very much lost. Being guided by the sovereign knowledge of WAZE GPS I unintentionally ventured onto private property. Already feeling uncomfortable, even more so in this hilly, woodsy location, I was in process of my three-point turn toward freedom when I saw it. Saw him. Saw the gun. A man with a shotgun who yelled at me to get the f**k off of his property. Already in mid-retreat, I was enraged and frightened to gargantuan proportions. My shame, even though I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong except follow my GPS, was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure who I could talk to about this traumatic experience. I have friends who would specifically say this was racially motivated. And other friends who would say it wasn’t. But both of these interpretations were wrong at that moment and didn’t express the ignorance and overreaction of that moment and how that increased my already heightened anxiety. No matter what the specific blame or source of the reaction, I still bore the pain and burden of it. I needed people to be there for me. I’ve been lost before and have helped others just as others have helped me. It is within this incident that the beauty of this year’s Juneteenth became even more significant to me and created additional connections; connections between purpose, this pandemic, and our collective narrative.
For the time being, I don’t feel comfortable going anywhere that is unfamiliar which that isn’t like me at all. Luckily and lovingly I have people in my life of all skin shades who have and do check-in. We’ve gone for walks and they have made themselves available to talk. These touchstones have been present even when not right next to me, allowing for place; a place to be open, to share, to cry or metaphorically be hugged and hold their hand. I don’t ignore or dispute racial incidents happening. I am a woman of African descent who loves the beautiful skin that I am in. Despite my self love, I am acutely aware and regularly reminded there are some who will only see my skin and relate that to being less than. And while that reality is discomforting, there are others who don’t judge me on the basis of my skin but like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. suggested, on the basis of the content of my character. I take great comfort in this idea and this hope. I’m using this Juneteenth as a comfort as well, this weekend and beyond. Looking back at our nation’s shared historical incidents as well as incidents in my own life, and now looking toward the potential of reconstruction, I hear a rally cry. This reconstruction is coming in different and vital ways, addressing the COVID and racial dissonance with restructured humanity.
I think of things such as, would slaves be proud of our progress? Are our ancestors pleased? My life, our lives of all skin shades hold this one truth: We are the embodiment of slaves hopes and ancestral dreams for better. Are we honoring or dishonoring those who’ve given their lives, whose lives have been taken away? Are we doing right by them? Are we reconstructing progressively or are we regurgitating the same redistributed rhetoric, the same virulent viruses that have been a part of our systemic unjust upbringing?
Think of all that we could accomplish if we could just get over our garbage? Think of all that could be accomplished if Justice were in fact blind and followed the moral imperatives and ethical codes of which it has been appointed? Shouldn’t this be the focus, collectively progressing and being resolute in identifying the issues and handling them swiftly, justly for a more peaceful and successful society? Such identification comprise of continually educating ourselves on what are current practices and ongoing corrective actions steps including:
We should be unwilling to accept those who pervert these systems any longer. We must supplant these perverse systems with intelligent strategies of reform that do not perpetuate dysfunction. In this interview by WGBH both Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr. and State Representative Russell Holmes, (D-Boston) speak about topics including defunding the police and reform:
While I was fortunate to be a part of various Juneteenth celebrations this weekend, my own personal celebration, more intimate, included gratitude for my own life. This personal celebration was a protest of sorts. It protested allowing anyone to take my joy. Instead of being scared and isolated, celebratory gratitude and empowerment were the focus of my main Juneteenth attitude. This gratitude was demonstrated with good meals, good conversations, and reflections on those who’ve come before me.
Like watching steam rising from the asphalt on a hot day, it feels like these times are filled with the energy of our pioneers from yesteryear. Their calls feel almost palpable, rising with the summer humidity of this moment, their cries, asking us, what we are doing with this time. I don’t want my life to be disrespectful to them in any way. We have opportunities. This time right now is an opportunity, and not only for persons of color, but all of us. All of us who breathe, have opportunities to do better. It is our choice to either do better or maintain the stagnant normalcy of unjust systems.
Compassion doesn’t have a color. Justice doesn’t have a color. Intelligence doesn’t have a color. Courage doesn’t have a color. All may not be able to step into my shoes and feel my struggles or the struggles of others who look similarly to and are of African descent, but we can all relate to the pain in some way. We all feel these pains in some way or another. Divisiveness and intolerance is eliminating our ability to collectively improve. That is something we shouldn’t tolerate. I think of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey. I think of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. I think of Sandra Bland. I think of the many, both melanin rich and those with less melanin who fought and walked together during Civil Rights protests of the 60s as well as today. Like these historic and unknown protestors, there are modern protestors who employ various tools toward addressing injustice. An example to consider:
I think of people I know who may not be protesting in crowds but are using their businesses to purposely hire persons of color and fill as many seats at this Life Table with persons who have been labeled as marginalized. We are people and only marginalized because of how Society dictates, not because of anything of our own doing. From business to sports and all areas in between, we can unite to bring about awareness. And active awareness helps bring about change.
I think of my great-grandmother.
And my grandmother.
And I think of my niece. I want this little girl whom I love dearly to have a better world. I don’t want her or others to experience the pain and trauma of systems designed to marginalize. I don’t want them or anyone to have the traumatic pains of ignorant overreactions of being faced with a gun for accidentally being on another person’s property. While it will take some time for me to find a new balance, my personal Juneteenth weekend protest and COVID Conundrum has been a resuscitation of sorts. We must Reconstruct our Humanity to move forward.