Juneteenth: Keeping Faith with Our African American Brothers and Sisters

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On this Nineteenth of June 2019 African Americans around the United States commemorate the Abolition of slavery. It has been called Juneteenth since 1865, even though Lincoln proclaimed the end of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963. African Americans in Texas still toiled in bondage until June 19, 1865 when news of the Proclamation finally reached Texas, and, in some cases grudgingly, slaves were notified they were free at last. Perhaps now, as never before, do we need to remember who we are as Americans in all our varieties and ancestral origins. As hatred is spoken around and about the highest offices in the land, we must celebrate all that is good, kind and right within one another. Hatred cannot stand, and in the longer scheme of things, it will not. But for now, as hearts are wounded and rage engendered, let there be balm in Gilead.

A few weeks ago while I was in a medical office making a return appointment the African American clerk offered me June 19. My calendar noted the date was Juneteenth, and I had a conflict anyhow, so we found another day. I mentioned that this date was Juneteenth, and she looked at me blankly. I was prompted to ask if she knew what it was. When she said no I gave a feeble explanation. I asked if she was familiar with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem, and she said she was. I had heard it on a radio broadcast, entranced, two years ago and that evening blogged about this amazing music here. I told her the song and the day were related. Evidently it wasn’t until Ralph Abernathy and Coretta Scott King incorporated Juneteenth into the Poor People’s March to Washington DC in 1968 that the tradition was carried home to communities around the nation. The Juneteenth World Wide website gives its detailed history.

Yesterday in The Forward, a Jewish periodical that goes back to 1897, Tema Smith in its Opinion section called for Jews to celebrate Juneteenth with our African American brethren and sisters. She writes:

Let the Jewish community take cues from black leaders who ask them to reckon with hard truths — truths like the fact that the wealth of America was built on the back of African slaves from whom our black community is largely descended. Truths like the fact that many Jews in pre-Civil War America were silent on slavery, and some did, in fact, own slaves. Truths like, while many in our Jewish community have been able to access reparations for our communal tragedy of the Holocaust, black Americans continue to fight for theirs.

Smith ends her powerful piece with these immortal words of Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”

And today as a Congressional Reparations hearing begins in Congress, I end this post with one of the most haunting and evocative anthems I have ever heard. A capella group Committed sings “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

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Thus Have I Read

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An American flag and photograph of the Buddha are prominently displayed in the barracks of the Portland Livestock Exposition Building, where Japanese Americans were interned. May 31, 1942 | Photograph courtesy The Oregonian / Barcroft Media

This morning I read an article in the Tricycle magazine and found it so forceful, I wanted to assure more people read it. That’s where you come in, and hopefully you’ll direct your friends and followers to check it out as well. For immediate, present moment relevance, just notice the crib in the above photograph.

At this time in our nation’s history when children as young as infants are being separated from parents at our southern border and held in tent encampments and other dreary facilities, we need to remember where this country has been. We may have thought we had moved beyond the paranoid ideation leading to the ensiling of the different, or alien, other. Au contraire. Here we are. We are being led by an individual who hawks lies and hatred purchased wholesale by the incurious and the uninformed. That there are so many of them appalls and frightens me. So, as Duncan Ryuken Williams quotes Nyogen Senzaki in this Tricycle piece,

The Buddha taught that identity is neither permanent nor disconnected from the realities of other identities. From this vantage point, America is a nation that is always dynamically evolving—a nation of becoming, its composition and character constantly transformed by migrations from many corners of the world, its promise made manifest not by an assertion of a singular or supremacist racial and religious identity, but by the recognition of the interconnected realities of a complex of peoples, cultures, and religions that enrich everyone.

Namasté,

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 23

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Graphic from Race Fashion

Week 23 is upon us and there is much to cause concern. There’s a major fight afoot in Washington to greatly reduce Medicaid coverage throughout the nation. Maybe you don’t have a need for it now, but it behooves us all to be aware that if you or a loved one is elderly on a low fixed income, a child or adult in dire financial straits, disabled, living in a nursing facility or group home, or in any other way dependent on Medicaid health coverage, including utilizing the help of home health aides, that coverage could evaporate or greatly shrink in the not so distant future. There are demonstrations across the country to show support for a compassionate health legislation. If you’d like to learn ways to help make a difference, Indivisible offers plenty of useful information. Tempted though I am to detail the reasons for this, my Diversions blog is not a political blog. I trust you to Google this to learn more in the unlikely event that you are as yet unaware of this.

I’ve curated a few disparate items to distract you from the many varied challenges you face day to day. 

Are you a woman who’s never sure how a new lipstick will look on you when you buy it? Then you should be interested in this new app that lets you try on shades of various major brands, and then order the ones you like. It’s big in Asia.

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Millions suffer from chronic inflammation. It plays a role in many chronic conditions, from asthma, arthritis, and some migraines, to fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Check out this piece on beverages that may help.

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Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast. This quote by Willam Congreve from his 1697 play, “The Mourning Bride,” is frequently misquoted as “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast. In 1697 “music” was actually spelled “musick”. Why tell you all this? Because I have more than one musical treat for you today. And most of us have savage moments daily, often when we speak with our spouses or children, since we get under one another’s skin because we know one another so well. So we all deserve more soothing.

First, here is an interview with Bèla Fleck on playing JS Bach on the banjo, followed by a video of him performing. I heard him on NPR and found his playing magical.

Last I’ll end today’s diversions with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” long considered the Black national anthem. This month featured Juneteenth, and I didn’t want the month to end without sharing this. If you aren’t aware of some of this important American history, do check the links.

 

Namasté

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