It’s Juneteenth

by | Jun 19, 2021 | Poetry

Happy Juneteenth! Enjoy this excerpt from my children’s book, Bella Learns the Price of Freedom.
As Uncle Shep began driving again, Mama prepared Bella for what she would see. Cocking her head to the side, Mama started her history lesson: “Armstrong Colony is special because it remains one of only two Freedman’s settlements in East Texas built after the Civil War. The black slaves in Texas learned they were free 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln made a public statement called the Emancipation Proclamation.”
“Yet and still, Texas was the last state to let its black slaves know that they were free from their white masters and could leave the plantation,” Aunt Prudy spit out.
Aunt Rose patted Aunt Prudy’s hand to calm her. Eyes sparkling, Aunt Rose joined in with Mama’s story: “Slaves gathered in front of the courthouse in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865, while General Gordon Granger read the freedom declaration. When the Texas slaves heard they were free, they celebrated. They were so happy that they named June 19th Jubilee Day!”
“Now, we call June 19th Juneteenth, and black folks celebrate it whether they are from Texas or not,” Aunt Prudy added while sucking her teeth.
Eyes squinting against the sun, Mama interrupted, “Once black Texans learned that they were free, some of them wanted real independence. So, they left the plantations and created their own communities like Armstrong Colony.” Artwork by Jo Scott.

and Unc’s
arrive with
their full trunks.

Box braids
Flat pressed
Dread locks
Twists and curls

hoary heads
from those
of young girls.

Gum popping
Hips twisting
Tails Swishing
Sashaying about.
Dozens playing

Fingers snapping
Mouths jaw-jerking
Mamas redirecting.

Knees creaking
Joints complaining
Backs groaning
Voices moaning.

Babies crying
Mamas shushing
Daddies boasting
Kids a’fussing.

Dominoes clapping
Young boys rapping
Plates a’clinking
Toasts and drinking.

Family singing
Joy bells ringing
Cause today’s
Got meaning.

It’s Juneteenth!