On Juneteenth we remember how news of Emancipation did not reach our people in Galveston, TX until 2 1/2 years after it happened. It took 2 1/2 years for our people to find out. The story of Juneteenth is especially important now, because too many of us are still waiting to be free.
In this historic moment of 2020 we cannot wait to be free.
It’s important for us to push for policy changes and for education on anti-Blackness, structural racism, and colorblindness. But what’s even more important, especially for Black people, is to live and be free right now, in this moment.
Bob Marley sings, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.” These words speak to my own purpose: to be a happy Black woman as I live my life right now. To live my life with a sense of liberty is an act of resistance in itself. And it’s especially important today.
Yes, we must demand, fight for, and attain our freedom through organizing and policy change. But that work will, and has, come up short because we haven’t freed ourselves. The reason there’s reform instead of revolution is oftentimes because we haven’t emancipated ourselves from mental slavery.
If we can’t envision a world without a police department we’re still in bondage. Mental slavery still has us.
If we can’t envision a world where people care for each other… can’t envision the idea of someone sitting in their car with a medical emergency and others inquiring to care rather than to punish… can’t imagine living in a world where Black people can go to the park and look at birds… can’t imagine a world where people can be in their own home playing video games without intrusion of the heavy hand of brutality from our own government… can’t…
If we can’t envision these things then we haven’t freed ourselves.
As activists and advocates we think a lot about freeing our communities, freeing people we work on behalf of. But often we haven’t done our own liberatory work. So I’m asking what that liberatory work looks like, not tomorrow, not 5 or 10 years from now, but today.
For me what that looks like is rest. It looks like the ability to say yes and to say no, without hesitation. It looks like fully engaging in things that I love such as art and dancing. It looks like having genuine real friendships and relationships, not just with friends and family, but with the people I’m hip-to-hip with in the struggle.
It means reimagining my city of Oakland, California, envisioning a strong community of Black folks who live without the pressure of policing, who are able to access vital health care and education, where children play in the park, where barbequeing in a park is not a protest.
This is part of my life’s work, to be free so we can get freer. If we haven’t done our work for ourselves, we can’t do that for others. It won’t work.
That’s what I’m thinking about today: How can I be free so that others can be free with me?
Because I can’t party all by myself.