relevant |from Latin relevare"to raise or lift up, alleviate or free from a burden"
Today, thousands of people gathered to celebrate the day that the last African slaves, in Galveston, Texas, received word of the Emancipation Proclamation--nearly three years after the September 22, 1862, announcement. Martin Luther King Drive became a sea of fans and umbrellas and bubbles as the 90-degree sun beat down on one of the oldest and largest Juneteenth Day celebrations in the country. That didn't stop the dozens of bbq grills and smokers from serving up turkey legs and grilled corn, jerk chicken and goat curry. Drummers, rappers, and praise singers got the crowds dancing and double-dutching. Vendors represented community organizations ranging from colleges and health services to campaigns for prison reform and peace. Fathers and mothers walked with their kids (it was also Father's Day!), old friends reunited, strangers shared a meal together. Today, everyone was relevant, whether they were black or white, young or old, Christian or Muslim, a b-baller or a police officer. Corn on the cob didn't discriminate: everyone's hands got buttery. It didn't matter if someone was wearing a white tank top or high-laced high heels, short shorts or dashiki and kufi. The shared goal was to uplift, raise up, celebrate, remember.
The only bitter note was sounded by one elderly gentleman standing on a corner screaming "If you're not black, then go back!" In response, however, an African American man walking next to me just chuckled and said to me that that guy needed to "step back." Agreed. We let him have his voice, but the man's screams were drowned out by the happy squeals of children as the traditional West African stilt dancers, faces masked completely in black, got a little too close for comfort, a young woman chanted against violence on the other side of the street, and groups of teenaged boys laughed energetically.
My favorite photograph of the day is the only one in color (click the gallery below to find it). A mother and daughter sought shelter from the heat on a stoop, bright red umbrella ready for their eventual return to the blistering and blissful MLK Drive.