Friday was my first Juneteenth. Or should I say, Friday was the first day that I celebrated Juneteenth.
I first heard about Juneteenth when I was 22. Growing up, it wasn’t a day I had ever heard of. I mean I had heard of the whole phenomenon of how our enslaved ancestors in parts of the south did not find out about the Emancipation Proclamation until far after 1863. But other than that, it was not a holiday I’d heard of. But the year after I graduated from college I worked with a woman who was from Texas and she would talk about Juneteenth and how she was surprised so few people up north knew about it or celebrated it. I didn’t think anything of it. Until this year.
Even before I saw announcements of events going on to celebrate Juneteenth, I had made up in my mind that I would celebrate it this year somehow. Clearly I was not alone. With everything going on right now, I think a lot of us just needed this day this year in particular. I know people have had celebrations of Juneteenth for years. But for a lot of us, we just needed this day – a day to celebrate our resilience, our strength, our pride, our history. A lot of us just needed a day to celebrate Blackness and revel in a little joy amidst all that is going on, because Black joy is revolutionary.
So I planned on making sure that my first Juneteenth, pandemic and all, was going to be safe but also spirit-lifting. My day started with megetting up and eating breakfast while watching episodes of Living Single (which is my new syndicated favorite because it takes me back to a happy place in my youth when I loved watching it and each of my friends tried to figure out which one we each were. For some reason they said I was the Sinclair of our group, which I don’t really see. But I digress). After I finished eating I created and posted new designs for shirts, that were inspired by the day, for the t-shirt/apparel company my sister and I own: Free Woman Creations (https://teespring.com/stores/free-woman-creations) . I then got in my car and headed to Freedom Plaza in DC, where a number of different marches and rallies convened. I met up with some of my Sorors who I haven’t seen in person since early March and we listened to some speakers at the rally and then went over to Black Lives Matter Plaza, where some other marches and protest were headed. Even the rain could not dampen (no pun intended) the mood or ruin the energy out there. Just to be out there seeing all these people, their signs, the shirts, the outfits, the energy – just being outside– it was awesome.
But hands down the best part had to be the GoGo floats that came towards Black Lives Matter Plaza. There were two of them, one on each end of the street, and one had the band E.U. And of course they busted out performing their classic hit “Da Butt.” So of course we had to dance. And it was such a classic DC moment, doing “da butt” on Black Lives Matter Plaza while E.U. performed. I didn’t even bother to try and take pictures of it because I just wanted to live in the moment and capture it in my mind to be able to share later. And even better, despite the forecasts, the sun ended coming out.
For sure, even with all that is going on in the world (and more people out without masks than I would have liked- but still a lot of people with them on) I have to say that it was a good day.