Yooooooo, it’s been a minute. I mean, I don’t know when was the last time I posted. Ummmm, who am I kidding it was when I had to admit to my struggle about writing about the African Diaspora. Listen, I had to go lay on my therapists chair after May ended.
But let me get to the topic at hand today.
These lyrics will make sense by the time you finish reading. For now, just tuck the words into the back of your mind.
So lemme ask you, my people, how do yall celebrate 4th of July, America’s Independence day?
Well, if you wondering about me, I don’t celebrate it per se. Remember I told yall, I don’t celebrate European holidays. So unless someone is throwing a BBQ, it’s just another day off for me. I get to just chill. This year I’m going on vacation for the 4th of July week.
But this ain’t about me. It’s about you.
On July 5th, 1852 Frederick Douglass addressed wypipo aka abolitionists from New York with his speech, What to the Slave is the 4th of July. Ya’ll, this speech is long and it takes awhile before he answers the question. But luckily for you, I’m giving you the CREAD cliff notes.
Sidebar: Who is Cliff and why he get to make the notes short? But I digress.
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”
I ask a similar question to you. What to the Africans in America, does the 4th of July represent?
So what about Juneteenth? Do you teach about….wait, before I ask, raise your hand wherever you are, if you even know what the holiday Junteenth even celebrates. Let me give you a hint.
Ok, that was a big ole hint and if you put your hand up, put it back down now. You look crazy!
For the rest of us, who may have heard about it in passing but never dug into what it signified well here we go.
On June 19th 1865, enslaved people were given their freedom…in Texas…two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
In the Caribbean we have our own celebration of our emancipation on August 1st, which signifies the day the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1834. However, that only gave freedom to all enslaved Africans under the age of 5. It would take four more years before all enslaved Africans to be emancipated.
If you’re doing the math, that’s about a 30 year difference between the US and the Caribbean. But that’s a story for another time.
Based on the JuneteenthNYC website, NYC is celebrating by “promoting unity and self esteem” and “a reference point from which to measure and appreciate the progress of…” Africans in America:
I had to go and check the NYCDOE website to make sure we didn’t have a holiday set for today….nope. I checked to see if there was some guidance on resources or ways to teach Juneteenth. Well I found this. Do you see the Juneteenth referenced book from 2016-2017.
Well just in case you missed it. The suggestion was that students should read this book with the description from Amazon:
“Experience the joy of Juneteenth in this celebration of freedom from the award-winning team of Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis.
Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms.
Told in Angela Johnson’s signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis’s striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.”
Now listen, let me give you my disclaimer because I’m about to say some thangs! I’m glad that there are books that explain the history of Juneteenth. We need that. I mean that’s Sankofa. BUT we all know that bird takes the egg from the past and is moving forward into the future.
What I want to know is where or rather what is the future of Juneteenth? How are we preparing ourselves, our families and our children for this progress? Who represents the progress right now?
So, I got answers with my questions. Aww shucks.
1st answer: Please check out the Root 100. This year and years past. Please stay informed about what Black folk are doing right now. Get out of your teacher bubble and get into the Black world.
3rd answer: Now this dude obnoxious asf but he is out here in these streets doing it. Lavar Ball ain’t here for nobody but his family and legacy. I’m going to stay in the sports arena and continue to rep hard for Colin Kapernick and Lebron James.
4th answer: Last week Humble Vito put you on to Boyce Watkins and this week I’m putting you on to Jay Morrison and his buy back the block to stop gentrification plan and nationwide tour. (Thanks to Cathleen for putting me on to him.) This is not just a rap song.
Now the key to unlocking all of these answers is YOU.
Clearly, it’s too late to teach about Juneteenth for this year. High School teachers are knee deep in grading Regents exams. Middle School teachers are watching movies (wink wink) for educational purposes and Elementary school teachers, I’m sure you’re on a trip this week.
You can thank me later for giving you your late May and early June unit for SY 2017-2018. And you’ll have all summer to figure out how you use the Sankofa lens to teach about the history of Juneteenth and make it relevant and responsive to our current lives and lifestyle.
If you all behave, we may just give you that unit, for a small fee of course. (Whispering: don’t tell nobody but we got some teacher guides coming in the Fall. We not just gonna speak about it in the new year. We all about it.)
Alright yall. Enjoy the rest of the day. Meditate on Juneteenth and on freedom.