This is Why We Celebrate Juneteenth

I would like to say that in writing this blog my heart was light and full of joy. I want to say that all that was on my mind was the happiness of what Black celebrations bring.  However, that would be dishonest of me. What is championed in many equity, inclusion and diversity spaces, especially Black spaces, is authenticity.  Thus I will admit, I write this blog with both the bitter and the sweet in my heart. The last two years of this pandemic have brought with it a racial reckoning that is still being waged in our streets, public institutions, in our homes and in our hearts. Our global discussion on race has been a violent pendulum. I don't know if I can truly map the current of where this reckoning is headed in the end but I still have hope.

While there have been triumphs, such as the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson who takes her seat as a justice at the end of the 2021-2022 Supreme Court term, there have also been more deep wounds added to our nation such as the racially motivated shooting in Buffalo at Tops grocery store. Sadly, to add insult to painful injury, that resulted in the closing of one of the few sources for food in a predominately Black community, highlighting the still present specter of our legacy of slavery and the on-going inequality that is the fallout of it.

THIS is WHY we celebrate Juneteenth!

For many in our San Jose community and in other places around the country, 2020's Juneteenth was the first time they had heard about the celebration that has been celebrated in Black communities since 1865. For those who don’t know or have forgotten, Juneteenth marks when enslaved people in Texas, two full years after the end of the civil war, were informed they were free. This moment is considered the mark of the end of slavery in the United States and is considered one of the longest running Black American holidays and is now officially a federal holiday starting this year.

As I said last year, "This is a great first step in a long journey that needs to happen to have true racial equality" but only if we allow ourselves to fully examine what Juneteenth stands for as a holiday.  To further recycle my own words, racism is a mental health crisis, that not only has the effect of keeping many Black Americans from fully realizing the American dream, but it has a physical toll on our bodies and minds. It lives in the very DNA of many Black people and, while Black Americans were freed from the shackles of slavery, they are still enslaved to the ticking time bomb living inside of them. However, I believe that this trauma does not just reside in Black bodies but a kernel of this pain lives inside of all of us manifesting in ways both conscious and unconscious that we have passed on from generation to generation like a genetic disorder.

Again THIS is WHY we celebrate Juneteenth!

We celebrate to remember both the bitter and the sweet of Black life. We celebrate to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us but also to remember the joy and hope they held. We celebrate to remember how far we have come and how far we have still yet to go. We celebrate to not only release that pain but to be refreshed anew to continue on with this work. We celebrate to acknowledge the painful but to also revel in the ideas of a Black future, Black Joy, Black Pride and Black Music (which by the way Black Music Month is this month too).

This year, the African American Community Service Agency of San Jose will again be having an in-person celebration in it's previous location downtown that we as the San Jose Public library felt it was important to be a part of. In addition to our on-going presence at the AACSA Juneteenth celebration we also are hosting the Oakland Interfaith Choir (as remember it is Black Music Month), a special joint exhibit with SJSU called Black Spartans that will be hosted at three of our branches, partnerships with SJCC, Umoja and special Juneteenth themed story-times hosted by our Family Literacy Coordinators this month in celebration.  This is one of the ways we are focusing on diversity and equity as a system. If you can, please join us. If you can't, or the risk of the virus is still pressing on your mind, I ask you to instead take that date to not focus on the bad of Black life but the good, the happy, the mundane, and the simple; laugh with us, learn with us, dance with us, sing with us and dream with us.

However I ask one thing of you reader, do not limit yourselves to thinking about social justice, equity and the legacy of racism to just one day or a special month but to challenge yourselves everyday and think about how you can be the change you want to see.

THIS is WHY we celebrate Juneteenth!

Happy Juneteenth and I hope to see you all celebrating this year.