Last Friday I had the chance to celebrate Juneteenth with my friends in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The party was as good and smooth as I had imagined, and in addition to meeting new people and enjoying some good food, I’ve experienced my first small gathering after a long period of quarantine. It was refreshing to go out again, walk in the city, and see people around me. Of course, we’re still under COVID-19, so I had my mask on and washed my hands more than usual.
Juneteenth is an African American holiday that recognizes the collective liberation of the enslaved people. Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th, the day when the Union soldiers shared the news of the end of slavery in Texas in 1865. The news arrived in Galveston, TX, the last part of the country to know about this social change and its laws. Juneteenth is important to celebrate it because it reminds Americans about a critical part of their History, for many decades taken for granted and not taught it among generations of Black, White, and other American citizens.
It’s been almost a month of me living in Jersey City and the more time passes, the happier I am with this current decision I’ve taken. Differently from where I was staying during college, Jersey City in New Jersey (another State, but so close to Manhattan) is closer to the New York and I can access to all my favorite places in a very easy way. The current place I am in has influenced me lots on this new lifestyle I’m embracing, and I’m glad I’m experiencing this set of philosophies and actions during such eventful period of time we millennials are living in the USA.
The Black Lives Matter movement has opened my eyes with an unexpected, fast-paced, and bursting civic engagement that has amazed me very much. I didn’t know about the existence of Juneteenth and its related details. In less than 20 days, a lot of historical chapters that I wasn’t taught in high school or college were filled with many notions and facts that starting making much more sense. Given my position, I also see and analyze these things with non-American eyes, from an outsider’s and unbiased perspective. I can spot once and for all, while feeling them on my skin, the discrepancies among Americans, but also within the communities – Blacks against Blacks, Whites against Whites, etc.
At the beginning of June, after George Floyd’s death and Breonna Taylor’s case, I was as invested in the causes of Black Lives Matter as confused on the ways I should educate myself around these social activities. There were times I didn’t feel like my voice was worth the listening. Other times I felt I was mixing too much of my personal experience and limiting my stories by telling them from one point of view. There were moments when I felt best listening rather than intervening, even when asked to answers questions, mostly from my White peers living in Europe. I wasn’t sure if my purpose, the message I firmly believe in – being a bridge between the communities I am part of – could be beneficial at all. I identify myself as a Brown Italian, mixed and proud, but how should I phrase my lessons and speak from my position? However, I wasn’t alone in the midst of these thoughts, turmoil, and doubtful moments.
Weeks went by, and I could see that no matter how African Americans share one target and victory to achieve to, there’s a lot of missing points, ignorance, and non-unity among them. I could see this with the Afro-Latinos in Dyckman St., Bronx, debating between Dominicans and African American groups. Same things happened in the realm of cancel culture with J. Cole and Noname, a musical and intellectual battle between Black men and Black women. I could also observe the takes that Black Europeans with African descending origins have been expressing lately, especially in Italy, but also the Netherlands, France, and Germany. I can’t avoid asking myself, where the unity at? I can see and envision the goal, but it’s the procedure that keeps me wondering when will be free from our physical looks and beyond our social labels. Are we free, should we be free, can we be free from our past? What’s stopping us to go forward?
After different conversations with friends, mentors, family members, and social media interactions, I came to the conclusions that I own the right to push my voice and position inside a space I identify being part of. At the same time, every conversation I had made me realize how passionate I am around these topics, without losing my creativity and drive towards my creative ventures. I’m glad to see the woman I’m growing into, civically engaged and invested in causes I believe in. I like this kind of mental freedom I’m shaping for myself, through my writing and lifestyle – close and distant from the chaos of the urban distractions, but not far away for the important causes I must be focused on. I’m considering this new chapter of my life both as a blessing and a privilege. For this reason I want to turn this position of mine in an opportunity of self-growth and education, where I learn everyday something new and do something about it.
Juneteenth was a great occasion to learn that I’m not the only one learning about stuff that I wish I had known before coming to this country. A lot of my American friends had no idea of what Juneteenth was, including many Black friends of mine. A part of me felt angry and disappointed to the systems that never allowed me to explore or being much more exposed to this historical knowledge, but another part of me was glad to live this emotion among other people who are learning and getting information just like me. Even if it sounds weird and probably uncomfortable, thanks to this year’s Juneteenth I have the possibility now more than ever to foresee my position in journalism and in any creative field I will happen to be in. I still see myself as a cosmopolitan writer and creative, personally free of any labels, aware of other people’s perspectives, and at peace with the purpose of my work. I felt free during Juneteenth and it’s not even my holiday. I felt free, welcomed, and educated. And I can’t wait to feel more.
the curly flower