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Celebrating Juneteenth from the Island

Figure 1: To Be A Slave, Julius Lester, 1968.

It's 7PM on a Tuesday in June. It is the 19th day of the month of June in the 2018th year of the Common Era. One-hundred and fifty-three years ago today, slavery was ended in the United States. Where are we now? Not so far as we thought. In honor of this day, all those who celebrate it, and the resonating significance of it, given the present political climate *cough Trump is a Rump cough* I am writing a post. Such a post can only be authored in truest and bluest form to convey the auspicious nature of the Juneteenth holiday and my limited grasp of it. So, I revisited an old read, meditated on the circumstances of my privilege and the natural world, and wrote this epistle to you. If you've never read To Be A Slave (Julius Lester, 1968), it's a little book of pain and perfection that centers on several core principles of this holiday, in piercingly historic first-person accounts [Figure 1]. Highly recommend. Appreciation of events generating Juneteenth were cultivated for me, as a human experiencing a unique Here & Now, by initiating meaningful conversations and utilizing online resources. The below excerpt is from the introduction of an incredibly useful website to glean historic and social justice information about 19 June 1968:

"Through the efforts of those at the grassroots level, to those on the state and national levels, Juneteenth celebrations are now held in most, if not all, 50 states. Over half have passed some form of legislation establishing Juneteenth as a Special Day of Recognition. Several other states have similar legislation pending. The recognition and honor of Juneteenth extends even beyond our borders. Expatriates, teachers, servicemen and others have continued their celebrations internationally. We cherish their dedication, as well as each and every one of you, who see the wisdom and vision of an America who comes to terms with truth, acknowledges its mistakes and commits to liberty and justice for all. We live in a different world today. There is no room, nor time, for bigotry, hatred and racism within our own citizenry."


Let's start a conversation. What books have you read on the subject? How did you spend your Juneteenth? Did you have mediations on it? What were they? I implore you to connect with me over this so that together we can build each other up!

How am I attempting to embody the rescindance of human moralistic cannibalism (i.e. slavery) in the United States so ashamedly recent in our history? By meeting you, my loving readers in a place of complete nakedness. A state brought on by the horrors of our collective American history and the concurrent travesties of justice that continue to abound before us. As I am currently in the desert, my gift to you can be only my parlance through this venue. My morning mile today happened in the bathroom at 7PM.

I have already spent hours winding through a reservoir of post-use agricultural runoff, surveying for Caspian terns in the compounding heat of the high desert. Already, I have added support beams to the collapsing tunnel that leads into the observation blind atop the volcanic island jutting forth from the reservoir. Already, the fledgling gulls have swung low over my head & the adults screamed their displeasure at my trespassing gait. The dog has been walked three times and gone through his tricks once over in the yard of the communal farm house. Emails have been sent. The boss has called to clarify the report to be sent out. Dinner has been made, eaten, and stretching for the exercise plan has been painfully endured.

All the while, it is Juneteenth. One-hundred and fifty-three years ago today, slavery was ended in the United States.

It's 7PM on a Tuesday in June and I bathe in salts. Gothronica* echoes from my waterproof speaker while a copy of Henry Miller's Air-Conditioned Nightmare slowly comes unglued over the tub's humidity. It's only a Tuesday in June and I have summited Paradise. What as brought me to this place? The book in my hand is a carry-over from a weekend spent in Portland, OR with a marvelous person. The bruise blossoming under my left knee cap, evidence of the foul weather spike four days prior and the evacuation from the island that so ensued. No displeasure in this wound registered at any point, as it is a mark of the profession I live and breath with fervid honor. What pain has been known to those descendants of the Antebellum South? Nine extra-long human toes peek over the glassy edge at the far end of my plastic tub ensconcement. In the quiet moments of this privilege, a poem by Dessa* rings true. The priceless liquid of the bath, over-saturated with Epsom salt and tea tree oil, suspends my form. The weight of myself is ever so much lighter than it was throughout a day passed in Paradise. The back of my skull draws a tangled line of dark Caucasian hair projecting from my scalp to just below the surface of the bath. My ears dip underneath into a soft silence.

All the while, it is Juenteenth. Only one-hundred and fifty-three years ago was slavery finally ended in the United States.

From here the soft beating permeates my awareness. You know of course the beating. I hear it most often when I am still. At times, I balance items on my belly or chest to see the rhythmic fluttering of my life's water move about and make the unimportant thing on me dance. An eerie brand of mindfulness stirs my inner monologue to Keep At It! Images of the morning flit across the calm of mind. Basalt hexagons from the island where I watch The Time stare blankly at their splayed relatives along the base of the western cliffs. Fallen columns without their Samson. Aloft, a bedrock filmed in decades of guano and inches of ash from the Mount Saint Helens eruption. A scene that can only be described as Western Sky of American Indian folktales hypnotizes mortals trapped by its loveliness. To the west, chiseled peaks cut bleeding stripes of fuchsia and soft tangerine orange into the melding green and umbering blues that chase down an exhausted star.

All the while it is Juneteenth. How could it be only one-hundred and fifty-three years since slavery was ended in the United States?

With vivid enthusiasm I pine to understand the struggle of those affected by these horrors. The constant recapulations sprawled on social media depicting the state of millions of over-looked, overly-policed, and overwhelmingly imprisoned Americans curdles bile in my stomach. On this day, I meditated on the suffering and strength of the American community that sprang from this oppression.

That is how I celebrated Juneteenth 2018. By sharing it with you, I hope that a truer recognition of the significance of this holiday was attained. Below is a poem from the site I ambled about to learn more about the history and celebration of Juneteenth. Let us continue the conversations in our own lives and communities. Let us live in love & righteous freedom of mind!

"Keep In Your Heart The Blood

Remember always the glory days, the dances, the songs, the chants, the rituals, the customs, the people.

Remember times in beautiful Africa, your people.

From green forests, golden deserts, to the deepest, darkest regions of Congo and Virunga.

Hear, here in this land.

Hear always in your heart the beating of drums,the ancient customs of the Kagani.

Remember always the kings and queens,Tutankhamen, Cleopatra.

But do not sit and not remember the dark days.

Keep In Your Heart The Blood.

Blood spilled by those who fought for freedom.

The blood of the slave as the whip touches the flesh.

Do not be enslaved, be now empowered.

Feel it, taste it, drink it.

Gather it in buckets, bathe in it.

Bathe your children in it.

Keep In Your Heart The Blood"


The End

*album by Dominic Kelly, highly recommend, though entirely unrelated

*Dessa = badass rapper, songwriter, and feminist. Google that shit.

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