It’s Fall 2022 in earnest now. For a couple of nights we’ve draped towels over our outdoor flower pots to protect against freezing temperatures, hoping to make the blooms last just a little longer. And we look back with nostalgia on Summer, here specifically at Juneteenth 2022, and even a few months further back when it seemed Americans really did want to talk seriously about race. Those days seem nostalgic, too. These days we need Juneteenth more than ever, so the VIDEO below shows a few seconds—98 of them—of one of the oldest celebrations in my state: the Aurora, Illinois, celebration.
For a short while after the murder of George Floyd it seemed like people were willing to talk about race in the U.S., but no more. This is a year of backlashes, just the current one of many, many, many others. Now, mention systemic racism or white privilege and you are accused of being racist. We don’t want to read about it, so let’s go after every book that even hints of it. We don’t want our children to “feel bad”—though some emerging research seems to indicate they don’t feel that bad at all. In fact, they’re fascinated by the history of slavery and racism. It is, really, their parents who don’t want to feel bad. No shame, no guilt, no bad feelings of any kind. Sometimes we’ll focus on some individual thing that’s egregious, like the Maine insurance company that put this sign in its door this Juneteenth: “Juneteenth—it’s whatever. We’re closed. Enjoy your chicken and collard greens.” Something like that goes viral, but not discussions of the deeper systems of thinking that give rise to such signs, to say nothing of the systems that block all kinds of equity for blacks and other people of color in virtually every area of life.
Ironically, Juneteenth celebrations help fulfill part of this longing to forget hard things and celebrate just the good times, and why not? The video below does focus on good times. The AAMOU (African American Men of Unity) have put on this event for many years, and last year one of their long-time leaders, Rickie Rodgers said this: “The way we celebrate Juneteenth in Aurora, it’s not to shame whites but to gather the whole community together to have a good time and embrace the heritage.” The operative words here are the last three.
In my article on last year’s Juneteenth celebration in Aurora, which explains the holiday in more detail, I also spent some time looking at the famous Johnson brothers’ song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black National Anthem, and the video below does begin with a few words from it. It may be possible for some people, mostly white, to embrace just the good-timey Juneteenth celebration, but most Blacks—a growing number of them—can’t help but embrace the entire heritage: walking the way that has been watered with tears, with the blood of the slaughtered, with hopes that have died unborn. This way continues to be walked every day still by Blacks and other people of color. It would do well for everyone to embrace these realities, too. As is always the case, these sorrowful realities make joy more vibrant, alive…and real. These sorrowful realities, once faced, makes possible the deep, true development of all our humanities, and this, in turn, makes meaningful community and oneness possible.
I’m also writing this just as we’re beginning, after a Summer hiatus, to do our Becoming the Beloved Community (BBC) anti-racism workshops again. I hope you enjoy the video below, but it is fairly shallow. For deeper videos look at some of the videos listed at the BBC link just above. Without embracing all of the heritage, we’re left with just fairly shallow good times. These days we do need even those kinds of good times, yes, but we should be hungering for much more.