Juneteenth As A National Holiday
Loving The Longest Day
Solstices are my favorite holidays, perhaps because they’re natural, true division points that mark the ebb and swell of the year. I remember a summer solstice spent in Anchorage, when it was sunny for 22 hours straight and the brief night was just an eerie twilight. It was hard to sleep, difficult even to realize that sleep might be a good idea, and really hard to keep my eyes closed when there was a bright, lovely day gleaming away outside, despite being 11:00 pm. Here in the PNW, this beautiful balance point day offers 16 hours of daylight, enough to revel in and still want to go to sleep at night. I’m glad of some actual dark, because I love the solstice bonfire traditions, sending flames up into the night sky, celebrating what’s joyful, burning away all that needs release.
In our tiny neighborhood, our solstice bonfire is just a little fire in a small fire bowl, but it suffices. Tomorrow, my grandkids will help fill the fire bowl with the wood we’ve been storing in the sun porch so it can dry out. Had we not done that, finding dry wood might be challenging indeed. Some years like this one, when La Nina rules and the skies are grey and it rains at least a little bit most days, people can get grumpy and complain-y. Hearing about heat waves and droughts all over the country and the world, this year most of us are deeply grateful for the grey and find comfort in the rain. A friend’s father, who’s coming to visit from Florida, keeps asking her if it’s still rainy and chilly, and saying he can’t wait to get here and experience the lovely coolth.
Our First Juneteeth Celebration
Yesterday was just such a La Nina day, cool and grey, but for a wonder, NOT rainy. That was lovely, because we Islanders celebrated Juneteenth for the first time, as it’s now both a State and a National Holiday. I’m guessing that what with all the media attention, pretty much everyone now knows that this old but newly officially recognized holiday honors and commemorates the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were finally told that they were now free people, though it was two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s been celebrated ever since, at first in gatherings where enslaved people sought out relatives who had been sold away, looking to re-weave family ties broken by the inhumane practice of slavery.
Like most contemporary celebrations, ours lifted up Black voices and elevated Black achievements with powerful speeches, moving recollections, and stirring calls to action. We’ve had some ugly racism (is there any other kind?) emerging publicly from some surprising people recently so it was especially heartening to see a good turnout of enthusiastic and positive attendees. It’s also been heartening to watch the rallying of many white women who are willingly taking on the heavy lifting now, calling out the racism, refusing to let it die down and fade into the background. Black people and people of color have had to do so much of the hard work for so long, it’s definitely past time that those of us with white privilege and power use it for good, protecting and elevating our friends and neighbors and shining light on the darkness of racism wherever it lurks.
Taking Pride In Our Community
I’m looking forward to our local Pride celebration, which will do the same kind of elevating and celebrating for our queer community, young and old. The education work I’ve been doing locally keeps me remembering that just as many people are racist, covert or overt, so are many people homophobic and transphobic. It’s not only the obvious haters either; many a closet phobic talks the talk but is very clearly uncomfortable in the presence of anyone obviously queer. As more and more people come out everywhere, this is slowly changing, because very often, when a family member or friend comes out, the phobia gets diluted. A known and loved or liked person coming out can make the whole idea of queerness more acceptable (though sometimes it takes a while!).
I recently got my second covid vaccination booster at a local clinic where the doctor who injected me talked about watching a zoom program I gave to the local Rotary group. We are blessed with very active Rotarians, many of whom volunteer for all kinds of public service, including these vaccination clinics. This fellow observed that I’d gotten a bit emotional during my talk (imagine that!) and said, “It really made me think. I mean, you live with a REAL one! Someone in your actual family! It must be very real for you.” Um, yes? However, as we talked a bit, he said that hearing our story from me, someone he didn’t know personally but knew about in our community, made him think differently about queer people in general and trans people in particular. “I hadn’t really thought about them being someone’s kids,” he said quietly.
How To Be A Good ALLY
That’s a small example of how we can all be good allies for whatever we care deeply about, whether it’s the safety and wellbeing of queer people, Black people, people of color, women, children, the earth. Talking openly and in as friendly a way as we can manage goes a long way towards changing negative attitudes and assumptions. So in this balance point time between light and darkness, let’s talk. Onward, right?