It’s Juneteenth. For many of us, like me, in St. John’s this is likely the first year, maybe the second or third, we’ve really been aware of the holiday, let alone its significance in U.S. history and the life of black Americans for the last 156 years. June Nineteenth is now an official Federal day off, but I suspect its coincidence with the Father’s Day weekend will mean most of us are spending today looking for the perfect socks or down at the butcher’s counter looking for a steak or some juicy sausages for Dad. I confess, my weekend includes more of that kind of activity than of marking the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in this country.
Now, before you stop reading, please, let me invite you to also reflect and, crucially, act. Don’t worry, you will still get to celebrate tomorrow, as you had planned. If you’re one of my fellow Americans that has been led to believe they are white,* please read on.
The last year has been tough, even brutal, for everyone to varying degrees. The COVID-19 pandemic, the election, the murders of George Floyd and scores of other black and brown men and women, the hate-filled attacks and murder of our Asian and Pacific Islander neighbors, and so many other tragic and stressful streams of activity in our society have been a lot to pay attention to, absorb, talk about, just respond to, or maybe even do something about.
This weekend is the first weekend since COVID-19 restrictions in California have been lifted. 70+% of Californian adults are at least partially vaccinated and many of them are spending this weekend with loved ones for the first time in 18 months. Schools and offices are reopening. It feels good. Really good. But as we enjoy this change of pace and tone in our lives, I urge you to think about what hasn’t really changed and what we have become more aware of in the past year, on days like today and every day.
While many of us are regaining a sense of normality, there are others for whom very little has changed. Criminal justice and policing still overwhelmingly discriminates, often with deadly effect, against people of color. Access to education, including the resources to navigate the world of Zoom school, hybrid-learning, after-school care, and other things like books and supplies, is limited. People of color with intellectual or developmental disabilities and differences receive less than half the assistance from government services that their white counterparts receive. The list goes on.
These are some of the issues that St. John’s helps to address through its membership in Genesis. Last fall, I went through organizer training with Genesis’ parent-organization Gamaliel. I am long overdue in making this request. In the meantime, these issues have not gone away, by some miracle. It falls on me and you to act if we want the world to be different.
So, however, whatever, and whomever you are celebrating this weekend, I call on you to consider 3 ways to take action to address the ongoing injustice in our society even as we pull out of the depth of the pandemic into what will be a fairly normal summer for most of us:
1. Please join me and the Action & Justice Ministry at St. John’s in our ongoing conversations about these issues.
2. Please join the St. John’s delegation of 2 to 3 people to serve on the Genesis leadership council. This is a vital role that we have not been as active in playing as we should have, despite being a founding member of the organization. We are looking for two or more volunteers to help. Email me to discuss.
3. Take some time to reflect. Please reflect on Juneteenth by a. learning more about what it means and b. why it took more than 150 years for most of us to even know it existed.
Thanks and Happy Juneteenth - Ian Storrar
*Paraphrasing Ta Nehisi Coates, author and journalist known for works including his reporting in The Atlantic and his books like Between the World and Me.
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