Music is a unifier. For those who tend to enjoy a particular style of music or a particular song, there is an immediate camaraderie. African Americans have long been a guiding force when it comes to music instilling inspiration, passion, and unadulterated joy. As we approach June 19th, Juneteenth, we pause to think about a time past, and people impacted by the oppression of slavery and the shackles of lost liberty. For those whom music and dance and oration, and the freedoms of expression were snuffed out, we sing today, for them. The Marvin Gaye lyrics, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” should be an anthem for the African American communities in every corner of our country. It is a song that invokes the triumph of effort, the overcoming of obstacles, and deep drive for connection.
Juneteenth is an opportunity to celebrate, remember, and educate. We are indeed blessed that we live in a country that has awakened to injustices – past and present. We recognize the strides that have been made, and we applaud that Juneteenth now has permanence in the annals of American history. However, this is just the beginning of our journey, not the end. We must remember that the freedom of Juneteenth was withheld from many of our foremothers and forefathers. Information was twisted and skewed to protect those who wielded power. We see this still today. Whether with depraved intention or unfortunate inadvertence, there are still hurdles to our finding equality, acceptance, and life free of racism.
Social justice is an on-going, never-ending process. To call it a movement is selling short what we need to demand in our lives and the amount of time, patience, and diligence that it requires. It is a human effort that can be enhanced by digital communication and technological advances, but we still need to find ways to rise above and communicate person to person. We need to be organized and intentional. Juneteenth is a meaningful step in the direction of historical engagement. However, we must never lose our focus on surmounting the challenges that face all of humanity. Whether oppressions or pandemics, politics or wars, there will be mountains to climb and rivers to cross. The spirit of our heritage and those who were able to cross from Juneteenth to June 20th should serve as guideposts to all challenges that lie ahead, and as inspiration that “no wind, no rain, and no winters” will keep us from conquering the challenges ahead. We rejoice in the spirit of Sankofa and stand together in our collective efforts towards justice and liberty.