How To Celebrate Juneteenth & Value Black Lives

Posted on June 19, 2020

kelli bennett

This guest blog is by ELGL member Kelli Bennett, the Director of Communications for the Georgia Municipal Association. Want to write for ELGL? Send us an email and let’s connect!

On June 1, I dubbed June 2020 as #JoyJune and shared with my family and social media pals that I was going to be “intentional about finding joy and hope to this month” and reintroducing my joy jar into my daily routine.

But, fast forward to three weeks full of tears anger, pain and frustration due to the continued oppression of people of color and murder of innocent black men, my #JoyJune was quickly interrupted….UNTIL TODAY, JUNETEENTH! Y’all, I am smiling from ear to ear writing this and thinking about the celebrations I have planned for today!

For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick breakdown: Short for “June Nineteenth” and sometimes referred to as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, this holiday commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger informed a community in Galveston, Texas, that President Abraham Lincoln had freed enslaved Americans in rebel states two and a half years earlier. He pressed locals to comply with the directive.

Across the nation, Juneteenth is typically celebrated with educational activities for children, parades, concerts, beauty pageants and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Now, back to this “Freedom Day” Action! I’m joining my friends and fellow people of faith from across Atlanta in the One Race march today (practicing all necessary safety measures, of course). Follow #MarchOnAtlanta on social media to join us virtually. You never know, you may see your girl representing!

Many have asked me how they can celebrate today and join in this fight for social justice and racial equality, and I’ve pointed them to my May 14 blog, “Calling Advocates: Join the Fight of Our Lives.” See below excerpts from this blog and concrete ways you can continue (or start) to uplift black excellence, value black lives and fight against racism.

To My Fellow People of Color:

I’ll sing love songs of inspiration and uplift to you every day if I knew it would take the pain away and shift the trajectory of our oppression! But I know it won’t. Here’s what I do know: We have power in our voice, knowledge and vote. So, I’m encouraging you to have these (below) conversations with your colleagues when they ask, “What can I do to help?” And, as I’ve said countless times, educate yourselves on the law-making process.

Don’t just throw your vote away because of your possible discontent with federal systems and/or positions. The local level is where change starts! A real-life example of this is Tom Durden, the district attorney who refused to arrest my brother Ahmaud Arbery’s killers, is an ELECTED official.

What does that mean for us? Elected officials are placed in office by VOTERS (or a consequential lack thereof). For future elections, do you know who is on the ballot? What they stand for? Their track record? What about the name of your state representative? Know this is one step to decreasing the chance of a “Tom Durden” being elected in your community!

But above ALL, let’s love each other a little harder, and realize that we are in this together! Love will take us far!

To Parents Raising Bi-racial Children:

One of the best things my white mother could’ve ever done for my sister and I at an early age was embrace the fact that while we would grow up to be proud mixed-raced (biracial) women, society would always identify us as Women of Color! 

I am able to live in, love and embrace that truth because she embraced it first. By joining a predominately black church, sending us to heritage-rich camps and activities, and giving us opportunities to fully immerse in the culture, while meeting and celebrating holidays with her white side of our family, we learned about both “sides.” This was monumental in shaping us! She would’ve been considered an “advocate” by today’s terms, before it was a buzz word.

Parents of biracial children, I encourage you to do the same—fully accept your children in alllllll of their bi-racial glory. From their kinky hair (that may frustrate you at times), the many questions they’ll ask as they navigate their identity, and the times that you will have to be the minority at PTA, church, dance practice or sporting events…Accept all of this with PRIDE, because you are raising a strong Person of Color—but most importantly your little Blessing!

To My White & Non-People of Color Friends & Family:

We now desperately need ADVOCATES, not ALLIES. The time has come and gone for allies—those who passively “support”—now is the time for ACCEPTANCE & ACTION. Friends, you must first accept that White Privilege does exist in our society (subtle and blatant), no matter how much you want to deny it. This realization needs to be recognized by every white American, especially my Christian brothers and sisters.

Now is the time to ACT! You don’t have to relate to the over 400 years of oppression of People of Color to know that it’s wrong and to FIGHT against it.

Here are some ways you can apply pressure and join us in the literal Fight of Our Lives:

  • Exercise your privilege by standing up and in the gap for me and your POC loved ones who can’t.
  • Leaders in businesses, strive for equality and justice by pushing for inclusive hiring strategies and initiatives.
  • Stand up and say something when you see discrimination — yes, you have our permission to put your best friend, parent, sister … in their place!
  • Get as angry at issues affecting People of Color as you do with those impacting people of your own race.
  • Do your research on the track record and beliefs of lawmakers who have (or have the potential to) pass discriminatory legislation before you vote for them!
  • STOP profiling POC and sharing derogatory images of us on your social media feeds or in your inner circles.
  • Join a Peaceful Protest!
  • Put power behind your social media platforms by promoting Black excellence, Black businesses, Black leaders, etc.
  • Put your money where your social media posts are and support a Black-owned business TODAY!
  • Before you think of moving into a “developing neighborhood” research its rich history and uncover ways that you can uplift—not harm—its innocent inhabitants!

Trust me, this list could go on and on and so could my thoughts. But I’d like to hear from ya’ll. What are some CONSTRUCTIVE ways that we can work to dismantle these systems of oppression and SAVE LIVES!? What have you been doing? ELGL family, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and further connecting with you. 

I’m so grateful for Kirsten and Christian, for offering this platform to us and pray that each of you will highly consider using this platform to bolster your influence, impact and alliance. What I’m even more grateful for is the chance to share even more content with you all next week. Woot, Woot! *Raises the Roof* 

-Kelli B., a woman on a mission

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