I didn't know about Juneteenth until I was offended by my own ignorance, which I projected towards the person who told me about the Official holiday before it was even a bill.
I was in my early 30's and at the peak of my career in school custodial. Dressed in the uniform I didn't need to wear, but felt right in. Listening to Joe Rogan a few years before Spotify, as I moped out the roulette wheel of misgivings that was the 2nd floor boys bathroom. New Edition.
It was an automatic reaction to work. Only enough sensory awareness to the world around that was required for avoiding physical accidents. My normal reaction for someone who socially jostled me out of my Music or Rogan guided mental wonderland would be one of three: brief bewilderment, annoyance, or pleasant surprise with building anxiety sweat.
That day's reaction was one of sur-reality and arrogance when a woman -short and dark skin but with an audible tone that was femininely forceful, like a retired drill sergeant I would imagine- Excused her incursion with a child in tow to the boys bathroom. Even the kids know to avoid this area at this time, I thought. Obviously she was new here, but carried herself as if she has been respectfully around for years. I directed her and the young boy to the single stall, limited use bathroom I wasn't mopping.
Before I realized it, we were in the middle of a conversation in honor of black history month. One sided if I care to admit, as I just want them to go about their day so I could do so with mine. The podcast topic of science and aliens was calling me. This petite black woman with the national colored head wrap to match was almost quizzing me about something called Juneteenth. The idea that she thought to teach me something randomly about black history felt mildly insulting at that time. Sure we work in an elementary school, but most I care about kid holidays is if I'm off, or on schedule for a party’s clean up. The situation felt mildly preposterous. No way I didn't hear of something about black history that mattered more than a seemingly random school aid telling me over a child's messy tantrum.
I remember feeling what I thought was an innocent judgment, “Hm, another new wave super woke type”, as the woman finally organized the child and began to trail off towards the adjacent corridor. With the Words ‘Juneteenth’ echoing from her lips and within my mind, I began to mop the hallway right outside the restrooms as I hit play on my podcast. It was too late, my focus had been diverted and I couldn't help but stop, again, and give Juneteenth a quick search and put my disbelief to rest.
Of course if you're reading this, you may already know what truth I discovered. How did I not know about a day that commemorates the end of slavery?! My shock did not waver as I put my phone back in its place while my hands continued to be busy. Now catching up to the schedule I’ve fallen behind, my eyes physically felt wide and focused beyond the general work. While the topic of super science and alien life felt trivial compared to my lack of self identity. What else don't I know about being a Black American and my history?
I spent weeks looking at life and associates from a different perspective before I even saw that Sister again. When I did, I felt foolish and I was angry about it. I knew that my response to her would have been different knowing what I've learned. That alone was enough for me to double check my confidence in assessing individuals, seeing as I almost missed out on the message from an Earth angel by viewing her gift of knowledge as an f’n nuisance to my day. Internally, I had this profound respect for her, as well as admiration for her resolve. Knowing that not everyone who looks like her bares the full weight of where we come from, and where we need to go.
For context to my reaction, understand the following snippets of general information about the recently recognized federal holiday:
- Has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1866.
- Gets its name from combining "June" and "nineteenth," the day that Gen. Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, bearing a message of freedom for the slaves there.
- On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves. The proclamation wasn't officially recognized in Texas until two and a half years later on June 19
- (Imagine being free for two and a half years and you didn't know?)
- Flag is represented by the Pan African Flag, as adopted by many in the black community. Previously, it was represented with red, white, and blue as a display that all freed slaves were American.
- Represents the Legal End Of Slavery. (because Slavery, was as legal as rights to bare Arms apparently)
I still shake my head at myself when I compare my discovery of this information with the rabbit holes about supernatural entities, Weed and space I find myself going down at that time ( and now, still). Yet I feel more complete as I embrace facts about the past and the seeds of black excellence in America, like Black Wall Street than, and institutional movements like Greenwood Bank and TREF now.
I look back now after being in this true journey for knowledge for only a handful of years and my appreciation for a person whose name I don't even remember enough to omit from this blog (for privacy) has only grown. If you know someone like that, give them their Roses now, because history has a funny way of teaching us to overlook them.
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