Hands Off Juneteenth!
In the wake of an African American Renaissance, Africans born in America have found various traditions, customs, and celebrations that honor and give thanks to our heritage and roots. There is no argument that the return to natural hair, garments, head scarves, and style has turned from first a trend to now a lifestyle. Across the country as videos of police murdering innocent Black boys and men have gone viral, countless amounts of Africans born in America have found their place in progressing our people forward through education, entrepreneurship, public office, community events, and so much more.
Unfortunately it didn’t take long for celebrations proclaiming Black lives, Black dollars, and Black unity to be criticized and torn down by both white and mainstream America. Tweets flooded social media proclaiming that such celebrations were so-called “reverse racist” and not fair. Amongst these celebrations included Juneteenth.
As many know, Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the release of enslaved Africans in the confederate south, thus declaring their freedom from their masters. Across the country and in St. Louis these celebrations have always been beautiful, pure, but most of all it has always been built by and for African in Americans.
This year in St. Louis, the multi-billion dollar St. Louis Cardinals franchise launched a Juneteenth celebration expected to take place June 19th. The Delmar Loop Organization also announced a Juneteenth celebration that includes organizations that are not led by or ran by Africans born in America.
So what is the problem with white Americans and white organizations now welcoming a celebration of the freedom of enslaved Africans a century and a half later? Everything. Juneteenth is a sacred and communal holiday stitched in African pain, triumph, history, and pride. White America has no place ever attempting to add to, capitalize from, or take mainstream such a sacred and harmonious celebration that has been kept alive by Black America.
The St. Louis Cardinals have remained a pillar for this city bringing in millions in local and tourist dollars while taking the backseat to important conversations that move our city forward. Yet, to me, none of this matters more than the purity and community found amongst Juneteenth events in St. Louis. The very essence of these celebrations are rooted in building relationships amongst people of African descent. When outside businesses attempt to take this holiday mainstream or fuse it with popular culture, it is no different than diversity & inclusion trainings held in countless businesses all over America to address a problem cannot possibly be rectified in an 8 hour setting.
It is a bandaid, a mockery. . .and a cheap one at that.
Let the record reflect . . . .
We, as a collective have not asked for the St. Louis Cardinals to celebrate the freedoms of our ancestors.
We, as a collective have not asked the Delmar Loop to open it’s streets to our Black dancers, speakers, and musicians.
I believe that with the current climate of our country, “feel good” events have become placeholders for actual change. I believe both the St. Louis Cardinals and The Delmar Loop Organization have missed the mark greatly when planning Juneteenth events.It’s important to note that St. Louis based Juneteenth celebrations already exist. If real inclusion and celebration was the goal I would challenge these organization to join forces with grassroots organizations like Sabayet Inc, Cherokee Street Reach, Faith for Justices, or any African American church. Real inclusion does not begin with white America recreating what we already possess and what makes us proud. It does not start with “do-good” conversations about African Americans without African Americans present at the table, but by real relationships in real time if that is desired.
To The Delmar Loop Organization & to The St. Louis Cardinals :
We are not your projects, your feel good events, or your charity cases - we are a Race of people who have prevailed amongst the hatred, bigotry, systematic racism spewed at us from every direction in this country. We do not need your permission or input to celebrate our heritage. Furthermore, to organize an event celebrating the heritage of Africans in America without having any input from Africans in America is both offensive and problematic.
On behalf of St. Louis organizers and change makers - Hands Off Juneteenth!
To my fellow St. Louisans who are looking for a place to celebrate the resilience of your people please join the following African & Black ran and organized events.
Peace & Light,
Juneteenth - A Celebration at Love Bank
June 16th 11am - 5pm
Juneteenth 2019 Sabayet Inc
June 15th 11am - 7pm
4000 Maffitt Ave
St. Louis, Mo 63113
Juneteenth Freedom Fest
June 19th 5pm - 7pm