Juneteenth

Author: 
Aurora Martin, Director

On June 19th—Juneteenth—I awoke and went to my place of worship to pray that we shall someday overcome hate, find the courage to seek peace and be instruments of love to build justice. That I have the privilege to do this, in light of the hate-filled acts of violence in an historic Charleston church last week, feels somehow unfair. The institutional violence against people of color, and now amplified for all of us in real time via social media, has almost become a numbing spectacle. What is so difficult to honestly wrestle with—for our country, culture, media, and institutions of power—is the ambivalence of America's identity and the colonial propensity to oppress and deny and devalue and dehumanize. It can, at times, break one’s spirit to recognize that we must continue to work to dismantle and make right a legacy of oppression that generations of martyrs and heroes have fought for, but have yet to achieve. We must wrestle with this every day, let it sit within and move us into action.

Juneteenth reminds us of the promises we have made and the hope that we will someday fulfill them. Charleston reminds us of the roots of our work for justice on behalf of the impoverished, the oppressed, the dehumanized and devalued. We serve as true agents of change for racial justice; and our work for justice must take on the institutional structures that have racialized poverty in this country. The convergence of race, violence, liberty, freedom, and poverty is so tight that nothing short of a continuing revolution will do. That is how we must act; to seek out the untold stories, histories in the shadows, and remember that the people we serve and the cause that has called each of us to connect with our humanity. This brings to mind the words of Bryan Stevenson from his book, Just Mercy, in which he imagines that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but justice. Our work has the power to achieve exactly that.

In solidarity.