“Juneteenth,” and the slavery no one wants to talk about
On Juneteenth, many of my people would rather talk about freedom, instead of the slavery that brought us to this day of government-decreed celebration. I’m not one of them.
Why? Because the perseverance of my enslaved ancestors will always and forever matter greatly to me. But most importantly, as Chinua Achebe wrote so presciently in his, “Things Fall Apart”:
Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
Born under the sign of Leo the Lion, I want to continue to be at least one of the “historians” telling the history of the hunt.
Sixty seven seasons ago next month, I was born a “NEGRO,” in Charleston, SC. Though issued on August 15, I was actually born July 31. When I joined the Navy, they needed my birth certificate. Because I was living and working in D.C. at the time, I called my mother at home and asked her to send it to me.
She went into the locked box under her bed where she kept her “important papers” (along with her trove of $2 bills and Kennedy half-dollars!) and sent me my original birth certificate, my “Negro-ness” pre-printed thereon:
Though I’ve long, since gotten an official, government copy, I’ve kept this yellowing original in the same, locked box my mother used to keep under her bed — mainly because it documents the very beginning of my lived experience in these alleged United States of America.
I also keep it as a reminder of “from whence I came,” because SO much has changed in my life AND in my city since I showed up on the scene all those years ago. First of all, both of my parents have died and, thanks to the gentrification brought on by former, forever-Mayor Joe Riley’s 40-year stint of “Urban Renewal,” neither the house, nor even THE STREET of my “Residence at time of birth” on the birth certificate exists in Charleston anymore — a city which, for a large part of my becoming, had a Black majority downtown.
Peter H. Wood’s, “Black Majority” is an excellent read, which speaks to the whys and wherefores of that claim in great detail. If you get a chance, snag it for what it’ll teach you about the contributions my enslaved…