The importance of Juneteenth is the lens through which the past can be assessed, present redefined, and future transformed regarding race relations and the possibilities for all Black people. Navigating through the historic and cultural landscape of Mobile in the deep south provokes powerful thoughts as a young Ghanaian black man who has lived in America for only a few years.
This historic and greatly significant holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved is a symbol of strength and resilience. It is a celebration of life despite targeted oppression and a stern rebuke to slavery and discrimination. The truth is that despite the dispensation of time since the proclamation of freedom from slavery in Texas, which this date marks, there is still a long journey ahead regarding the improvement of race relations. It is a prompt to reflect on the remarkable achievements of Black people despite the myriad of obstacles placed in the path of growth and development. This is a global holiday with its importance growing in resonance.
To celebrate it in Mobile, Alabama, may seem like a juxtaposition of contrarian ideals when in fact, it is completely appropriate. It shows the resilience of Black people to overcome systematic oppression. To celebrate in Alabama is a vehement call to action to not take the perils of the past as the promise of the future. The presence of historical landmarks such as Africatown designates Mobile in special importance when celebrating this great day. Africatown shows the power of collective action, education, and bravery to change a generational narrative. To come to Africatown in Mobile, is a transcendent experience. Although uprooted from their homes and sold into slavery, the survivors created a great heritage that nurtured some of the most notable names not only in Black history but American history.
Within the African context, food brings people together. The food in Mobile reflects the diversity of cultural experiences subtly hidden within the fabric of Alabama. Well-curated restaurants become an arena for impactful discussions. The remarkable ecological setting draws focus to the commonality of man and need not only for respect amongst people but to their environment. The bright sun is a climatic symbol of the African heat, and frequent intermittent showers exemplify the myriad of possibilities the future holds for Black people.
As a scholarship recipient, knowing the power of education and hard work to create a life, the Emerson Institute and Mobile County Training School fill one with pride as they are lasting totems to community upliftment and youth development. This is also the home of the legendary John L. LeFlore who worked to stop segregation at the University of Alabama. As an avid painter and aspiring architect, the opportunity to use art to build the foundation of identity and express creativity can be witnessed through the work of the Mobile Arts Council Gallery which gives a platform to those formerly underrepresented in the field of Visual Arts.
The beauty of Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is the subliminal message it gives to those with discriminatory mindsets and a disdain for not only Black people but people of color in general. As we celebrate the freedom of those who were enslaved, the mental captivity of the oppressor is illustrated. The holiday through which history can be learned and appreciated is a window out of the confines which ignorance builds. For this reason, it is important for all people to educate themselves through the history of Mobile. To come to Mobile, Alabama to celebrate this date is a hugely cathartic experience with the awareness that what was intended to bring people down in slavery did not. It is a celebration of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For generations of Black people after slavery, colonization, and Jim Crow, the trauma may remain. Learning about the incredible success of Black people in Mobile is a testament to the greatness we possess and provides a form of healing. It highlights the duty to not forget our collective experiences and not forgo our blessed and mighty future. The irony that coming to Mobile was vital to shaping this realm of awareness is one I invite you to experience for yourself.
Be sure to mark your calendar for Juneteenth: Rhythm of Freedom on June 19 at the Robert Hope Park & Community Center. The event will feature live music by Bill Summers, art and food vendors, interactive classes, and much more!