Every year during my childhood and far into my adulthood, on June 19th, I heard both of my parents say, “This is our day. This is the day we celebrate.”
My mom said it with a tone of defiance and unmitigated pride. To have known the “made of steel” black woman that Cleal Jacobs Shine was, is to understand the gravity of that statement. She thrived on the fact that it was our day. She was quick to say, “Juneteenth is our time! July the fourth is for the white folks.” She was friendly to everyone, but know that the history of her people was a big part of who and what she was. She could not have been any prouder to be a black woman.
My dad, on the other hand, always expressed the sentiment with a quiet sense of triumph. His words were soaked in a sea of accomplishment. Daddy was older so the lynchings, the flat-out racism that defined the area we lived in, and the fact that a black person – any black person – best not go out alone was ingrained in his spirit. Don’t get it wrong – my daddy wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone (ask that truckload of white boys who thought it was a good idea to show up in our front yard that evening), but hey, it was no secret that local law enforcement carried the matches and gas cans to the klan meetings.
My History, Our History
On June 19, 1865, word that slavery had ended finally reached the south (Galveston, Texas, to be more specific). President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier on January 1, 1863, but you see, everyone didn’t get the memo. It has been said that the person who was to deliver the message about the abolition of [what was] America’s identifying fuckery was murdered on his way to Texas. I can see that. It has also been said that the news was deliberately withheld by slave owners, because, well, who wanted to let go of all that power, control, and forced labor? Listen, it has even been said that the emancipation was kept hush-hush by federal troops so slave masters could get one more cotton harvest in. I can definitely see that.
Freedom Ain’t Free…
The fight for full freedom in the black community continues. Don’t believe for one minute that the shackles that held us “in place” for the slave masters are gone. It’s just that today, those shackles are manned not only by the white man who refuses to accept the knowledge, education and leadership that comes from the black community, they are also clamped on the minds of our people by those inside the community who refuse to venture outside what’s “easy”. Education is key, whether you go the formal route or not – education is key! Drugs and black-on-black crime are so commonplace, they have come to be expected. Those things have held us captive long enough. As a people, we have to let them go because I promise, they’ll never let us go.
…But It’s Yours for the Taking
My wish – my dream – is that my community will flourish. My prayer is that a full understanding of where our forefathers came from, what those folks endured, and the lengths they went to make sure that doors were open for us to walk through with blatant boldness is gotten and appreciated. You need to know where you came from in order to fully envelop the place you are today. As the black community, we are the leaders of our past, we are the leaders of our present, and we are the leaders of our future.