I’ve written about Juneteenth before, in 2020 and in 2019, but as a Korean American in this moment, I’ve been reflecting on how the “popularizing” of Juneteenth this year feels strange, like a cheapening and commercializing of the true meaning (and cost) of Black liberation. I wonder what it means for me, as a non-Black person to honor Juneteenth well and not just in gestures or in performative ways.
Here’s a short prayer I wrote in response this year, as I feel the tensions of more people celebrating this as a national holiday:
MORE THAN PROCLAMATIONS: A PRAYER FOR JUNETEENTH
Oh God our Liberator, who proclaims liberty to the captives from generation to generation, You are the sustainer of our lives. You are the author of our collective freedom.
As Juneteenth celebrations are popularized- posts are shared, commercials are aired, and federal holidays are declared- we remember that symbolic declarations of emancipation have never brought forth true liberation. The two years it took for the pronouncements of freedom to reach the bodies of enslaved Black Texans remind us that true liberty for Black Americans have always been deferred. Proclamations must always be made alongside action.
So grant us more than words this day. Posture our celebrations rightly so that we move beyond gestures, and put our bodies into the struggle for the liberation of all our Black kin.
Give us resolve to fight for every kind of Black freedom-
from unbridled police violence and the prison industrial complex,
from voter suppression and voting rights restrictions,
from redlining and housing discrimination,
from disparities in schools, workplaces, and medicine,
from the deadly impacts of homophobia and transphobia ,
from being doubted, discounted, and silenced,
from casual racism, erasure, and microaggressions,
from every form of anxiety held by white fragility,
from every form of violence perpetuated by white supremacy.
And on this Juneteenth, would you move us from appropriated forms of celebration toward a sustained and costly liberation for all of our Black family. For as Fannie Lou Hamer said, nobody is free until everybody’s free. Black liberation is a gift to us all.
A few ways that I’m committing myself and resources to Black liberation this Juneteenth:
- Supporting (aka paying micro-reparations) to Black leaders and community activists that I love. In particular I am giving to support the ongoing labor of Alicia T Crosby (https://www.patreon.com/AliciaTCrosby, Venmo @aliciatcrosby) who inspired parts of this prayer, and dear friend Tamice Nae Spencer (Venmo @tammynammy) whose work with Subulture Inc. continues to help tackle many of the inequities named in this prayer.
- Supporting Black-owned business. Michael and I tried out a wonderful Black-owned BBQ place in Oakland (Rodericks BBQ) and bought some cheesecakes from The Excellent Cheesecake, a Castro Valley Black-owned business (with truly the best cheesecake we’ve ever had).
- Just ordered my copy of Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts. Excited to read more and learn more about the women who have been erased from history. Also, I am always sharing about a great children’s book from my friend, Nancy Johnson James- Brown: The Many Shades of Love.
- Continuing to learn ways to fight against Black voter suppression and voting rights and advocating for the protection of the Black vote in many places in the country where they are under threat. While California currently has several bills to expand voter protections, you can learn what’s happening in your state and contact legislators/take action.