Juneteenth

Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth;[2] also known as Freedom Day,[3]Jubilee Day,[4] and Liberation Day[5]) is a Texas state holiday celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger announcing federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were now free.[6] Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier and the American Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April, Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.[6]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth

As a 68 year old White Quaker male I am sensitive to the idea of cultural appropriation, and hope I avoid that here. I admit I only became aware of Juneteenth a few years ago. The Quaker part of me knows the history of a few Quakers who were among those involved in the Underground Railroad around the time of the Civil War. But I have been aware that many of us use that history to make us feel we have done something for racial justice.

That’s a sad appropriation, especially if it allows us to feel we don’t need to do anything about racial justice today. The title of the book Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice by Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye, indicates what a problem this continues to be today. It pains me deeply to know of the cruel treatment of a Black Friend of mine by her Quaker meeting.

The recent murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis has triggered global protests focusing on systemic racism. This day, Juneteenth, celebrates the legal emancipation of those enslaved. But shines a light on systems that since that time have built political and economic structures that continue to enslave Black, Indigenous and poor White people today. As Martin Luther King, Jr, eloquently wrote:

In a posthumously published essay, Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out that the “black revolution” had gone beyond the “rights of Negroes.” The struggle, he said, is “forcing America to face all of its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism and materialism. It is exposing the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”

Martin Luther King’s Radical Anticapitalism by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, The Paris Review, January 15, 2018

As my friend Ronnie James writes:

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

And my friend, Christine Nobiss, and her organization Seeding Sovereignty, has been stating this as capitalism is the pandemic. #CapitalismIsThePandemic

On May 3, 2020, a 50’ sky banner visible to millions stating #CAPITALISMISTHEPANDEMIC circled Manhattan–the US bedrock of capitalism and banking–to deliver a powerful message of protest against colonization and worker injustice in solidarity with essential workers who aren’t properly protected or supported.

https://seedingsovereignty.org/capitalism-is-the-pandemic

For My People

Margaret Walker – 1914-1997

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs 
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues 
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an 
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an 
     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the 
    gone years and the now years and the maybe years, 
    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending 
    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
    dragging along never gaining never reaping never 
    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor 
    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking 
    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss
    Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn 
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the 
    people who and the places where and the days when, in 
    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we 
    were black and poor and small and different and nobody 
    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to 
    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and 
    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to 
    marry their playmates and bear children and then die
    of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox 
    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New 
    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy 
    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other 
    people’s pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and
    land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time 
     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when 
     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled 
     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures 
     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in 
     the dark of churches and schools and clubs and
     societies, associations and councils and committees and 
     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and 
     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches, 
     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by 
     false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding, 
    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people, 
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless
    generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a 
    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second 
    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people 
    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of 
    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing 
    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs 
    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now 
    rise and take control.

From This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker. Used with permission of the University of Georgia Press.

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