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Juneteenth from Leroy Slan Jr.

LJ Slan photographer, writer, consultant, bibliophile, five year plus veteran in the fashion industry and wanna be DJ.  Born and raised in Atlanta (which he will always weave into stories) with a vast interest and exploration into all things involving humanity.

Over the past month, I’ve had many conversations — some very difficult, some easier, and some that I care not to mention. I will say, as a black man, my overarching takeaway is that we are in a paramount state of enlightenment. This moment is powerful.

 

There is a statement from the Buddhist teacher Adyashanti that I believe sums up what we are facing – and working through – right now. “Make no mistakes about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of the untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” The destruction Adyashanti speaks of is happening before our eyes… and I really believe this is our painful, difficult, critically important trek towards a more enlightened existence together.

My first conversation during this monthlong marathon of discussion was about Ahmaud Arbery, with a close friend. We would all later go on to talk about Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, but this moment was important. I realized that for many people, the next step after just listening is a great undoing or unlearningof the narratives that have been disseminated and taught to us, no matter where we went to school. This is why I’m beyond grateful for Morgan, Duquette, and Tennessee, who’ve treated me as family since the moment we met. I commend you all for stewarding your city, home, and platform as a medium to not only take on this unlearning yourselves but also to love on people and educate those around you.

 

Today, we find ourselves in the Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston on June 19th, 1865 at a courthouse where General Gordon Granger has penned “General Orders, Number 3.” (I would strongly recommend reading this). Gen. Granger, has assumed command of what was then called the Department of Texas before becoming Texas as we know it today. It’s important to have more context regarding the climate of the East Coast & Southeast at this point. The war had practically decimated these regions, there had been a symbolic win over General Robert E. Lee in Virginia when he surrendered at Appomattox, and enslavers were sending their enslaved to Texas for safekeeping and to cultivate cotton. Texas was actually a slave state but remained under the radar and safe from the physical destruction of war because it was so far West. In short, Texas was out of the loop.

 

But on this day, General Granger addresses the large crowd of both enslavers and those enslaved (not for long) to announce that all who are enslaved are now free - men, women, and children! President Lincoln was dead by this point and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery had been announced 2.5 years prior to this moment. (Keep in mind, Tennessee + Kentucky were operating under “free labor law” which allowed them to keep their formerly owned property and without paying them because it stimulated the economy).

 

Take a moment to pause and sit for at least a minute. Think about what this moment could have felt like. Contemplate the hugeness of hearing this news. 

 

Personally, the first thing that comes to mind is an enslaved person feeling like a human for the very first time in his life. Or perhaps a new hope that his children could experience a different world from the one he did. This moment was special, and it birthed what was first known as Jubilee Day or Liberation Day before eventually becoming a Texas Holiday known as Juneteenth! Arguably, this is the very first time that black people had gotten to celebrate in many years. Of course, there was more to address. How could newly freed people - with no education, no familiarity with currency, and no experience purchasing land - survive? They would spend the next century and a half figuring this out.

 

So back to 2020, where we started on this journey. If you are like many of my friends, you are questioning — what is the true meaning of July 4th, the holiday we think of as Independence Day? Why were we not educated on Juneteenth in school? Why are we just hearing about this now? And on and on… there is so much more to learn and to unlearn.

 

My plea is that we all remain hopeful, together, as a more unified people who are choosing to not vacation in activism and history but to live in it, unlearn, and learn true History. So today, Juneteenth, I hope you stand with me and fellow black people in choosing to celebrate and honor the true BEGINNING of all men, women, and children being equal in the United States of America. Start the conversation with your family and friends about what this day means. Remember, the most formative education starts at the dinner table. 

 

My commitment to you — I’m here for conversation, education, laughter, and tears. Feel free to email me at ljslan@icloud.com

Movies & Documentaries 

- 13th 
- Malcom X 
- Selma 
Books 
Podcasts
- 1619 
- The Diversity Gap 
- About Race 
- Parenting Forward podcast episode Five Pandemic