By Joyelle Naomi, Forge Basecamp Staff Itinerant Coordinator
Today, June 19th, is an American holiday called, Juneteenth. Continue reading to see why this is a great day to live a life of love as a Kingdom Laborer! On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which was effective on January 1, 1863. However, not all slaves were freed. Only the slaves in the Confederate states were emancipated. Word did not reach the slaves who lived in Texas until Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived on June 19, 1865 to establish Union authority in that territory. That was 2 years after the Executive Order was announced! One year after Granger’s arrival, freed Black men and women embraced June 19th as a day to celebrate their freedom even though all slaves in the U.S. were officially freed on December 6,1865.
Juneteenth is now commemorated across the nation with festivals, barbecues, family gatherings, and parades that honor Black ancestors and trailblazers who paved the way to freedom and emphasizes education and achievement within the Black community. It is not a federal holiday, but many states officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.
I remember as a little girl celebrating Juneteenth every summer with my family in Denver’s historical neighborhood, Five Points, also called “the Harlem of the West.” There were concerts, jazz, dancing, singing, parades, barbecue, and Black owned-businesses selling their products at vendor booths. You could buy African Shea butter, the real stuff, straight from the nut, raw and unrefined (see how Shea Butter is made here), jewelry, paintings, art, clothing and furniture. They were celebrations of joy and pride in who we were as a people. It’s one of my fondest memories!
This Juneteenth has a new (yet eerily familiar) significance as we face a time where Black Americans, and even Black people all around the world, are crying out for justice and the fall of systemic racism. This has been a difficult season for our country as racial tensions have escalated. Outrage over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Talyor, the men in several U.S. cities found hanging in trees, and of many more Black Americans have deeply impacted the fabric of our society. Non-Black friends, family, co-workers and other community members who desire to take a stand against systemic racism are seeking to understand how to best support the Black community during this time of deep hurt, rage, frustration, fear and uncertainty.
Consider this description of what it means to be a Kingdom laborer:
Laborers are ordinary people who deeply love God and actively love others. They seek to live a life of love… every moment of every day. What powerful words from Forge Founder & President, Dwight Robertson that are so relevant for today!
Here are 3 ways we can actively love the Black community today:
1. Consciously and continually buy from Black-owned businesses.
This Juneteenth people all over the nation are committing to buying products and services from Black-owned businesses. Why is this important? The Black-white wealth gap in this country is tragically astounding as the net worth of most white families is ten times greater than that of a Black family. Historically, the ability of Black Americans to build generational wealth has been impeded by slavery, Black codes, discriminatory policies, and violent massacres. One example is found in the Tulsa Race Massacre where a predominantly Black and economically thriving neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma called, Greenwood (also known as Black Wall Street), was decimated by an angry white mob over a two-day period in 1921. Businesses, homes, schools, a library, hotels and a hospital were all looted and burned to the ground and people were executed in the streets.
When we continually support Black-owned businesses and help dollars repeatedly circulate within Black communities, we aid Black families in building wealth that can be passed on from generation to generation. Consider supporting a Black-owned business today. You can find nation-wide black-owned businesses here. Or download one of these apps to find local businesses in your area: EatOkra or The Black Wallet.
2. Get Involved in nonprofits that benefit Black communities.
For many years, I trained as a classical and modern dancer. In 1988, I took my first ballet class from the academy of the leading classical ballet company in Denver. The ballet mistress told me, in front of the whole class, that I would never be a dancer because I was Black. When my mom found Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, I was surrounded by beautiful Black and Brown dancers who I could see myself in. I learned every style of dance from classical ballet, Horton and Graham modern dance techniques, jazz, tap and African dance. Because of the training I received at this oasis in the heart of Five Points, I was equipped to train as a student at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, my dream dance company.
Steps to Success and FaithBridge Denver have greatly invested in my nonprofit, Black Homeschooling Sustainability Initiative and many other Denver-based organizations and schools that provide and/or advocate for equitable educational opportunities for underrepresented groups. If you are considering supporting nonprofits like those mentioned, you can click here to see a list of nonprofits across the nation and here for a list of Colorado nonprofits that are dear to my heart.
Additionally, with Forge you can support underfunded Black, Indigenous, and People of Color students to participate in a Forge training program, to fuel their life as a difference-making Kingdom Laborer in their community and beyond! Click here to donate and select the “Lives of Color (BIPOC) Scholarship Fund” in the fund/initiative drop down menu.
There are many resources that you can find via a simple Google search on the contributions and history of Black Americans. Many Black people feel overwhelmed by being asked to educate their non-Black friends and community members on race relations, Black culture and history. Taking the time to self-educate is a great gesture of care and solidarity. Share your findings with your family and community and spark meaningful conversation. Tell your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that Black American history, Native American history, Hispanic American history, Asian American history, all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color history is American history. It’s our history.
So how can you and I support the Black community in this season? Love. It’s that simple. I hope you’ll take the time to engage with the links provided. Please consider choosing one or more of the three gestures of love listed above. Prayerfully ask God to show you His heart in this hour as you do.
I am deeply grateful for all of my Forge family who have personally reached out to me and my family with care, concern and words of encouragement. Let us all consider these instructions from Romans 12:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. …When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. (Romans 12:9-16)
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