by Susan Parlato Revels
I know there's controversy about it. Making Juneteenth a federal holiday. I've read the pros and cons all day today. So here's my "skin in the game"......
I remember the first Juneteenth celebration I went to 42 years ago. Barbara, Inez and Robin, my girlfriends (who were Black) said, "Come on, Susan, lets go to the Juneteenth celebration!" I didn't know what it was, but I said, "Okay!"
It was hot and the humidity index was sky high. We girls, young and beautiful, got all dressed up in our summer finery and walked down Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo, New York, laughing and dancing, music blasting from everywhere, and joining a whole community of people who were celebrating, having fun...joyous. And I learned what Juneteenth was about. There were hardly any other White people there, but I was HAPPY to be invited to join that observance . And I was HAPPY to celebrate - not that my fellow merrymakers themselves had been freed from slavery, but to commemorate the time in history where we as a nation took a step in the right direction away from oppression and toward something that could build inter-racial solidarity. There's that proverb that says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I was grateful we could all just "be" with each other and acknowledge that we were now many steps away from a very brutal period of our history. We "girls" could not have walked down the street together like that a century or so earlier. What would my innocent and winsome companions have been subjected to if we lived at another time? But there we were, we twenty-something dream girls, reveling in that freedom of youth and affection, afforded to us because of the time in which we were fortunate enough to be born.
I celebrate it for both Black and White people.....for us to recognize that we can overcome the phobias of the past and learn to appreciate each other as fellow humans and FRIENDS in this short stint of time where we happen to populate this earth and breathe the same air.
I celebrate it for others, AND I celebrate it for MYSELF.....that I don't have to live during that time in America where having my fellow humans in bondage was the law of the land, where my ability to do anything about it was dictated by the demands of others, where my own mind could have been seared, and I can now have completely free, intimate and loyal relationships with people who do not happen to share my skin color. I SHUDDER at the thought of what my husband, son and daughter would be experiencing right now if we lived 150 years ago. I know what racist components of my childhood used to influence my thinking, and what I had to do to overcome them. I know what it took to free my heart and mind from the influences of my past. I don't commemorate this day out of ANY sense of White guilt. I commemorate it, because I escaped, and just happened to enter this world at a time where my choices of friends and loved ones are influenced by.......knowing each other.
I....am free....TOO. So.....HAPPY JUNETEENTH. EVERYBODY.
Susan Parlato Revels
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