Ari Sanders, Director of Tavern Operations, Fullsteam
The world was very different last November, when in our weekly leaders meeting I blurted out, “Juneteenth!”
We were brainstorming events that Fullsteam could host in the coming year. I’d always associated Juneteeth with joy and optimism. My family always had cookouts around the middle of June to celebrate the freeing of the slaves, and there was often a special sermon at church that centered on the North Star or the meaning of Freedom.
At that meeting, we as Fullsteam leaders optimistically scheduled a Juneteenth weekend extravaganza, an event that would feature storytelling from local historians, dance exhibitions, artists, and musicians.
Well, if the best-laid plans can be thrown for a loop, Covid-19 threw our Juneteenth vision into the ocean. Still, with re-opening in sight, and thoughtful discussions on how to honor the holiday in a time of social distance, moving Juneteenth to an online format seemed like the way to go: a variety show streamed right into the comfort of your own home with a easy-drinking, 100% local beer available to take home to enjoy through the festivities.
Then, IT happened, AGAIN.
The lead-in of Breonna Taylor broke my heart yet hardly broke the news cycle. Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and murdered in front of us all only to have his character murdered swiftly just after him. George Floyd, whose last moments I couldn’t watch because I couldn’t see another snuff film. It all became next to impossible to think about comedy and dancing. The only song that came to mind was “Strange Fruit”, and we know what sort of people danced through lynchings.
Hearing these stories and far too many others like it stoke up a certain anxiety that Black folk always live with.
It’s going to the bank and hoping you’re actually going to get the rate that your good credit and work history qualify you for, but the suspicion that you’ll likely never know.
It’s the disquiet in your spirit when you delete the last half of your name on your resume, knowing you’ll get more calls for jobs you’re highly qualified for, but wondering if you’re giving up a part of yourself forever.
It’s absolutely the paralyzing fear when blue lights flash behind you, knowing you’ve done nothing wrong, but NOT knowing if the person pulling you over is one of the BAD cops.
On the flip, Black in America and all the gains our community has made in such a short time, all the firsts, give us a LOT of joy. No one can take away calling my great-grandmother just after midnight on November 7, 2008, knowing she was awake and hearing her cry tears of joy when a Black Man had just been elected the President of the United States.
No one can take away the pride in my Uncle’s eyes when my cousin was the first person to graduate from college in our family.
No one can take away visiting the graves of my great-great grandparents, who were Freedman, and thinking of how far I’d come in such a short time and how far I can go.
All of that joy belongs to me and people like me have many moments of that deep joy that wells up from within.
On June 19, 1865, Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas. It informed the enslaved African-Americans that they were free -- two-and-a-half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Those folk, hearing about their freedom for the first time, must’ve been full of joy, but also afraid as well. After all, that day and that news marked the end of the lives they’d known, the beginning of their lives as “freed” people, and the first day of the hard work of building something deliberately different.
Kinda like now.
Happy Juneteenth y'all.
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