For the longest time, I have eagerly anticipated Juneteenth. First of all, June 19th happens to be my father’s birthday and Juneteenth is a constant reminder that his passing represented a morbid form of liberation. While my love for my father has not diminished, but my enthusiasm has waned for Juneteenth this second year of it becoming a federal holiday. Mind you, I was one of those, that helped campaign for it. I have eternal love and adoration for Ms. Opal Lee, the 96-years young Civil Rights activist that pushed Juneteenth in President Joe Biden’s hands.
And yet, it feels as though the holiday has only served to further underscore the issues we have. The harsh reality is many of us are still ensnared in the clutches of oppression. I am speaking both mental, spiritual, physical and systemic oppression. From what I have gathered, another day off, parades, BBQs and performances are…another day off, parades, BBQs and performances.
Some of the very artists performing at these celebrations have made a mint actively advocating for the destruction of the Black community. Many more are not party to the Juneteenth activities but are celebrated figures in our community, as I pontificate about being free-ish. And, I’m not here for judgement, because if it was up to me, no less than half of all rappers would be so-called conscious. I am saying we – internally – have to realize we can’t have it both ways. It is like a rapper claiming both the streets and their music career. It does not work: these calls for freedom alongside of works that are counter-community.
With Juneteenth, I find myself grappling with conflicting emotions. While in the past, this day held immense significance for me, this year feels different. What exactly are we celebrating? The progress made since our ancestors realize they were free-ish, seems to be eroding. This plight has many layers, but let us break some of them down.
“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves,” is a quote falsely attributed to Harriet Tubman, but it feels like somebody today should just offer it up as their own. These days, most people know Black people are simply not a free as Juneteenth suggests. No need to jump into the predatory prison systems, the pipelines that start in school or the ease in which Black youth stumble into those traps. We are fodder and we know it. It feels like the hedonistic lifestyle is the way we choose, but that – in my view – is just another form of slavery. Drinking, smoking, and the sexual free-for-all is the order of the day. Am I wrong? Just look at your screen time and tell me how long can you go without it.
And, this is not me finger wagging. I have checked myself hard recently and reaccessed just about everything from top to bottom.
Black crime rates continue to be alarmingly high. There were numerous shootings at various Juneteenth celebrations. I have not researched them all, but no matter who or why, it is beyond problematic. Gun violence in America is a complex and multifaceted issue. We continue to have one of the highest rates of gun-related deaths among developed countries. While the causes of gun violence are diverse and interconnected, several key factors contribute to its prevalence in American society.
In the U.S. it is fairly easy to get a gun, legally and illegally. We recently posted about a kid that had about 10 guns, all stolen. The accessibility of high-capacity weapons has also contributed to the prevalence of gun violence. Check out the United States compared to similar socio-economic nations.
But I digress. I am not anti-gun, but I am anti-violence. The second amendment says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It was written in 1791 when they still used muskets and guns that could fire off a single round at a time. The 15-year old in Atlanta was had semi-automatic pistols equipped with a Glock switch that turned the handgun Ito a machine gun. So what is the point and how does this factor into Juneteenth?
Black America, is it time for a celebration rooted in faux freedom? From high crime rates to fractured family structures and persistent wealth disparities, the issues confronting us are deeply rooted, systemic and unimaginably complex. While it is essential to acknowledge external barriers, it is equally important to address our own internal struggles. We must take responsibility for the choices we make and the actions we take as individuals and as a community. Self-reflection and personal growth are imperative if we are to effect meaningful change.
Another thing: It is crucial that we shift our focus from individual success stories to the collective accomplishments of Black people who are descendants of slaves. We have billionaire success stories like Jay-Z and Byron Allen. When will those stories translate into change within our community, where the “black dollar” reportedly leaves us within six hours. By the way, both of these men and others like them put in the work.
We have a substantial Black elite. There are organizations like 100 Black Men, Links, Masons, Black Greeks, the National Urban League, to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and many others., their role should be to uplift and empower us. And yet, the hood is the hood is the hood. Scholarship drives, voter registration campaigns, and advocacy efforts help people, but it feels endless. Part of my other life has been devoted to helping kids, but it feels like the lives portrayed on social media, TV, and music undo the work with a constant stream of drivel.
While it is understandable to feel disillusioned and disheartened, completely disengaging from the Black community is not the answer. Instead, we should seek to address the challenges we face collectively, with a renewed commitment to creating a better future for generations to come. Juneteenth MUST serve as a reminder of the struggles endured by our ancestors and as a call to action for us to continue the fight for justice and equality. By working together, supporting one another, and uplifting the voices of those who strive for positive change, we can gradually overcome the obstacles that hinder us. It is within our power to shape a brighter future for Black America, and that is worth celebrating.
And to Hip-Hop: Do Better.
Hip-Hop is 50 years old now and it is high-time to start looking at our legacy going forward. Thus far, it its an amazing ride. I do not absolve the hidden hands stirring the pot, but we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to balance it out. And fast. I recently honored Chuck D of Public Enemy and it saddened me that we have clear descendants of N.W.A. in pop culture, but not PE. The energy was once the same, but they extracted the worst of the Ni##az With Attitude and commodified it. The same happened with Lil Kim. Again, this is not to chastise, but to challenge. Do better. For ourselves and for our people.