June­teenth: A day of joy and pain – and now na­tion­wide ac­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIO­NAL -

IN JUST about any other year, June­teenth, the hol­i­day cel­e­brat­ing the day in 1865 that the last en­slaved black peo­ple learned that they had been freed from bondage, would be marked by African Amer­i­can fam­i­lies across the na­tion with a cook­out, a pa­rade, a com­mu­nity fes­ti­val, and a soul­ful ren­di­tion of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.

But in 2020, as the coro­n­avirus rav­ishes black Amer­ica dis­pro­por­tion­ately, as eco­nomic un­cer­tainty wrought by the pan­demic strains black pock­et­books, and as po­lice bru­tal­ity con­tin­ues to dev­as­tate black fam­i­lies, June­teenth is a day of protest.

Red vel­vet cake, bar­be­cued ribs, and fruit punch are op­tional.

For many white Amer­i­cans, re­cent protests over po­lice bru­tal­ity have driven their aware­ness of June­teenth’s sig­nif­i­cance.

“This is one of the first times since the ’60s, where the global de­mand, the in­ter-gen­er­a­tional de­mand, the mul­tira­cial de­mand is for sys­temic change,” said Cor­nell Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Noliwe Rooks, a seg­re­ga­tion ex­pert. “There is some un­der­stand­ing and ac­knowl­edge­ment at this point that there’s some­thing in the DNA of the coun­try that has to be un­done.”

To­day’s cel­e­bra­tions will be marked from coast to coast with marches and demon­stra­tions of civil dis­obe­di­ence, along with ex­pres­sions of black joy in spite of an es­pe­cially trau­matic time for the na­tion. And like the na­tion­wide protests that fol­lowed the po­lice-in­volved deaths of black men and women in Min­nesota, Ken­tucky, and Ge­or­gia, June­teenth cel­e­bra­tions are likely to be re­mark­ably more mul­tira­cial.

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