A Few Ways to Serve the Culture
All we can say is, it’s about time. Juneteenth National Independence Day, June 19, was signed into law as a Federal holiday by President Joe Biden in 2021, thanks to the tireless efforts of Opal Lee, the activist now known as “the Grandmother of Juneteenth,” among countless others.
Whether or not you’re making the pilgrimage to Galveston, Juneteenth is an opportunity to celebrate, educate, and agitate. Whether you’re firing up the grill, partying with friends, or spending the day in prayer, check out these ideas from our readers as ways to honor historic Emancipation and build a future for Black people that’s forever free. And don’t forget the strawberry lemonade and Red Velvet Cake!
1.Read to children. Read to the blind. Ancestors stolen from Africa were deliberately prevented from learning to read and write in the languages of the colonials in an attempt to keep Black people mute and powerless. It didn’t work. Non-profit reading and recording organizations exist in most cities and counties; begin by calling a local library branch.
2.Create a Little Free Library on your street. These are popping up all over the country! It’s a national movement that really counts, especially since books currently banned from many American libraries include “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, and many other Pulitzer-prize winning novels.
3.Defend our books. The removal of books written by Black authors need to be restored to America’s public libraries. Their removal amounts to the attempted cultural erasure of the Black experience which has scarred America since 1619. Attend City Council meetings and Neighborhood Council meetings as well as other initiatives (feel free to start your own), and bring restoration of these banned books to the community agenda.
4.Plant seeds. Take a cue from Anna Carter, “the Seed Lady of Watts,” and start carrying seeds in your pocket. Starting a community garden may be a long-term goal. We love it, and remember that it takes time, planning, cooperation, muscle, and sweat. Meanwhile, just keep seeds in your pocket and press them into any open patch of dirt.
Remember that stolen Africans often “seeded” their tresses and twists with seeds, in the hope of creating a fertile place in a hostile land. We often use the Greek word “diaspora” to describe the far-flung children of Mother Africa, and the term often has a melancholy or even tragic quality. But when we look more deeply into the word’s origins, the word doesn’t mean lost, discarded or thrown away: it means scattered in a furrow, as in planted with purpose.
5. Sing. Whether you’ve always had a spot in the choir or just love to belt out karaoke, singing is good for mental health, Periodt! Can’t do the breath-defying runs like Mariah or improv like Miss Franklin? It doesn’t matter.
6. Mentor and teach. You’ve lived a long ol’ time by now and you know a lot. Reach out to the local community college, primary and high school after-school programs, youth group, church group, via the Nextdoor app — whatever, and offer to share your expertise.
7. Offer help. Find out who in the community needs a little neighborly support, and give it. A new mom, or someone who is ill or disabled, may really appreciate your offer of a Tar-jay run since you’re going anyway. Doing simple chores like watering a garden or walking a dog can make someone else’s life less stressed, and leave you more blessed.
8. Own your own, meaning your own streets. Walk with others through the neighborhood to be the community’s eyes and ears.
9. Support your local farmers market, or start one. Maybe you have a fruit tree that produces more lemons (or loquats, persimmons, or whatever) than you can possibly eat. Maybe others in the community are in the same situation. In any case, fresh produce is so life-enhancing and is notoriously absent from the “food deserts” of many urban centers.
As a bonus…
Treat yourself and a friend or two to a Museum Day. Here’s a partial list of inspo:
- The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington, D.C.
- Houston Museum of African American Culture, Houston, Texas
- African American Museum in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
- America’s Black Holocaust Museum, Milwaukee, WI
- Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, LA
- August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Pittsburgh, PA
- California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA
- Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, MI
- Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, Hilton Head Island, SC
- The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN
- The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH
- Northwest African American Museum, Seattle, WA
- … and even this IKEA in San Antonio, Texas