Tomorrow is Juneteenth. It took nearly two and a half years for word of President Lincoln’s signing the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Galveston, Texas. On June 19, 1865 the order freeing all the slaves in Texas was finally read. This was the last group of slaves to receive notice of the order. Juneteenth marks that occasion. At last count, 48 states have Juneteenth as a state holiday or as a day of special recognition and celebration. There are also efforts afoot to make it a Federal holiday.
Most White folks like me have little knowledge or history of Juneteenth. However, it is an important day in American history and all Americans should know about it and what it means. To learn more, see this blog from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, or this article from the Smithsonian Magazine, or this blog from Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
One of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever sung or heard sung is Lift Every Voice and Sing, which has also been called the Black National Anthem. It is typically associated with Juneteenth but can be sung anytime, of course. I was introduced to Juneteenth and the song about 30 years ago at Urbandale United Church of Christ, where I worked part-time as the religious education coordinator. I especially loved it when we sang the anthem as a congregation. The words are powerful and the tune conveys beauty, dignity, and courage. Last weekend CBS Sunday Morning offered this feature on the song. Take two minutes to watch the segment and then another two minutes to read the lyrics for yourself.
Lift ev’ry voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
God of our weary yearsLyrics by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
One more video because it is just so good…here is a particularly beautiful a capella version of the song. Enjoy!
where is the joy?
Joy does seem to be eluding us. For months we’ve lived under the fear of contracting a deadly illness in this pandemic. For weeks we’ve been watching our country finally(?) face up to its history of discrimination, oppression, and persecution of all others who not White and English speaking. For days we’ve been watching Trump continue to roll toward a mass campaign event in Tulsa like a slow, deadly train wreck for those attending the event given the spike of COVID-19 in Tulsa and Oklahoma.
The whole wide world seems to be on fire. We stand still, open our eyes wide, turn around 360 degrees, and we see it happening – but the brightness of the inferno blinds us to joy. And, yes, there is joy in the midst of the flames.
It is to be found in the little things, like:
- the walk we take with the people we live with, including our dogs.
- the meals we prepare and enjoy together now because we didn’t have enough time before.
- the quiet that has come with the reduced traffic around our home.
- the slower pace, including the opportunity to sleep in an extra 30 minutes or so.
- the excitement of seeing familiar faces on Zoom, even though we know it will still be a while before we will see them in person.
- the opportunity to read a book that we’ve had on our “to read” list for sometime.
- the starry nights we can now enjoy because of the reduction in pollution.
- the pride we feel in the diverse crowds of people who are peacefully yet passionately protesting the injustices toward Black people and all minorities in our country.
- the laughter we share with friends and family, even if only on Zoom.
- serendipitously finding a beautiful song, poem, or sentiment on the internet that speaks to our condition.
Think about it for a bit. What are the little things that give you joy today? It’s important for us to find them and savor them. Why? Because they are the seeds of the hope that will see us through to the end.
chickenman – episode 62
The Hummer continues to terrorize the streets of Midland City and Chickenman…who is mysteriously back in his Chicken Cave and not at his grandmothers in Fargo, North Dakota…answers the call.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.