We celebrate Juneteenth today in a year fraught with turmoil and upheaval in the wake of the death of George Floyd. I hope the artwork above—created by my very own book illustrator and all-around dope artist Davian Chester—and my story below help you open a conversation about race, history, equality, and the black lives matter movement.
MY JUNETEENTH STORY:
I'd never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to Houston, Texas, around 30 years ago. It was my first week at NASA and the black employees were having a huge celebration. My (white) boss said "Oh, you can't miss this!" So I went.
I was told the slaveholders in rural areas of Texas conspired to keep the enslaved African/African-American people from learning that they had been officially freed FOR TWO WHOLE YEARS after Lincoln's proclamation!!!
My first reaction was: "Why would we celebrate the fact that we were tricked into providing free labor for two extra years?"
But someone schooled me--over a giant plate of brisket, beans, and potato salad--to look at it like this:
We weren't free from slavery in America until every one of us was. And we are celebrating the fact that now we are ALL free.
I've celebrated it in some fashion every year since then.