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What Now? By Minister Jorell Glass

uneteenth has come and gone. Once considered tabu or “woke rhetoric,” on June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. The account of Independence Declared with its two-year delay for its beneficiaries in Texas. The matriculation of liberty took its sweet time penetrating the confederate fabric, lastly, settling at its hem. General Granger arrived with a message, authorized to enforce. The vague whispers of freedom were now clear and absolute. Stoic as Moses, Let my People Go, the insurmountable waves ending. What now? The apex of this climb to freedom engulfed three-fifths of one’s being, leaving no room for what’s beyond. The sacred mantel of Masterhood suddenly placed upon the bosom of the freshly freed. Destiny afresh, destiny anew, what now?

The Library of Congress documented conversations with recipients. The often grainy, poor-quality recordings captured this phenomena in 1865 perfectly. An elderly gentleman with a weathered voice began to give an account of what he witnessed. The spectacle of Union Soldiers arriving on confederate soil. The surreal tangibility of freedom and its accompanied anxiety. He specifically mentioned the Soldiers going home. The reality of home shattered an identity outside the confines of plantation property. Freedom slowly had taken on a more ominous experience. The further away Union Soldiers became, the closer the panic of what now? As cattle roaming outside of the pasture were the freshly freed. Overwhelmed by possibility, petrified by the moment, unprepared for the what.

Juneteenth is definitely a milestone. So many petitioned to make it a reality. The likes of Opal Lee and many others made it their life’s work to see this day’s fruition. To allow this sanctified occasion to slip unto the ranks of the pillaged and pagan would be the greatest disservice. Celebrations are in order, but mobilization is what’s lacking. There’s more to this milestone than just a point of recess. What happens after the ink dries, fanfare, and national attention subside? We’ve received the news of our freedom; the decree has been made, what now?

Black America has always improvised and innovated with scraps. Scraps of justice, scraps of wealth, given bowels of swine producing delicacies, abstract words phenomenally tooling the likes of Maya Angelou. Given slums, We produced Renaissances and Revivals. Our most notable achievements were birthed during struggle. We cannot allow this given Holiday to rock us to sleep, pacifying the loud cries of inequity and injustice.

The Children of Israel made this mistake of assuming freedom was free. The transitioning from Egypt to Canaan would not be easy. There were wars to fight, giants to route, land to subdue, backbreaking labor required to occupy the land of promise. God’s will was to liberate his chosen people. However, history shows us a people selected of God struggling to walk out his desire for them. His mediator Moses, by means of miraculous signs and wonders, overthrew Pharaoh’s polytheistic belief system. The God of the Hebrews triumphed mightily, supernaturally liberating a nation from Egyptian oppression. This moment of victory, expiration of captivity and servitude, watching their captors drown. The work was finished, but the journey had just begun. iWhat now?

Standing on this side of history, we observed remnants of our enemies. We realize how fortunate we’ve been in the most unfortunate of settings. We visit the milestones and recall the wars fought, the bloodshed, the lives lost, causing us to appreciate the advancements. Nevertheless, forward is the mandate. How do we capitalize on such momentum? Where do we focus our efforts?

Multiple sources refer to Juneteenth as something far greater than just a celebration. It’s considered a time of self-assessment, self-improvement, and planning. These themes often lost with deafening cadences of the cupid shuffle. It’s a clarion call to up, not to be quenched by the aroma of sizzling swine, watermelon seeds, and sundresses. Can we afford another Holiday?

Here’s our Now: The State of Illinois has five of the worst Cities for Blacks to live. Our inability to move has proven to be costly. The median income in these cities is nearly half when compared to whites. Educational disparities based upon a family’s zip code. Unemployment rates nearly triple when compared to Whites sharing the same communities. Nevertheless, we danced the night away, laughed until tears trickled down our faces. Unifying electricity, soulful expressions, astonished by gunfire next door. What Now?

In closing, Juneteenth is something far greater than a single day commemorating freedom for Black America. We cannot afford another Holiday. We need monumental momentum, ensuring resolution and equity for Black folk in America. We cannot afford another occasion gratifying an adopted westernized appetite for stuff but not virtue. Just as Kwanzaa promotes clear principles, we must intentionally keep the mission attached to the milestone. I remember Black History programs, where excellence was promoted, expected, and imparted to its attendees. As Juneteenth becomes more mainstream, it’s our duty to ensure its adherence to the righteous mission of lifting our communities up and out of despair.

What now?