It’s Juneteenth and I find myself wondering if my great-great-great grandmother ever thought about reparations. I wonder if she knew that former slave owners received reparations and how she felt about it. I have so many questions for her.
What does anxiety look like on the formerly enslaved? How did she deal with the trauma that lynchings bring? What songs did she sing to herself to maintain her sanity or what affirmations did she recite? What did she do to keep herself safe? How did she deal with being dehumanized? How did she manage to take care of herself?
I imagine self-care meant something entirely different than it does today. Self-care, back then, was about survival and preservation. Today, self-care for Black people is still about survival and preservation but it is also about representation, reparations and reconciliation; and it doesn’t stop there.
I think about what life has been like for Black people living in one world with two different sets of rules. History has taught us that we have to fight for everything we want and deserve; especially when it comes to our freedom. It’s a stressful struggle being Black. Might I dare add that it takes great skill to be Black.
Think about it. Black people were kidnapped and enslaved for the purpose of building wealth for their enslavers. We know that Black people were forced to do far more than that. (Insert side eye.) Since that time we’ve had to find ways to win despite the intricate systems that they put in place to break us on multiple levels. And here we are today on Juneteenth still fighting and still finding ways to win.
I wonder if my great-great-great grandmother thought it would take this long. I imagine that she and the rest of our ancestors are clapping for us regardless; encouraging us to celebrate our courage and remind us that resilience is in our genes!
Happy Juneteenth! Happy Jubilee! Happy Black Independence Day!