Stop faking, y’all never cared about no Juneteenth
Yet, as true as my friend’s critique is, I’m also moved by the equally powerful words of IMAN Roster Artist and activist who may soon, inshaAllah, become the youngest, freshest and flyest city councilman representing Louisville in Kentucky’s political history. During yesterday’s special Juneteenth-edition IMAN InnerNet Cypher, Jecorey “1200” Arthur declared Juneteenth as a day with global significance.
In fact, not so long ago in the pre-COVID 19 era, when people regularly flew across the globe (remember those days?) I was honored to be invited to serve as guest faculty guide with my colleagues Dr. Rabbi Rachel Mikva, Dr. Zachary Moon and Chicago Theological Seminary President Dr. Stephen Ray to an intense CTS two-week study excursion across Israel/Palestine. With the support of Bayan College I was able to secure a scholarship to invite my dear sister Maryum Ali, Muhammad Ali’s eldest daughter, to the trip.
You see, his excitement wasn’t animated solely by meeting the eldest daughter of the globe’s most beloved athlete. Without any full awareness of critical race theory, or a degree in African American History, this young Palestinian refugee from Bethlehem understood that oppressed people across the globe are not truly free until black people in America are free.
It’s why even after having seen in person the amazing artwork and murals on the side of Cup Foods in South Minneapolis where George Floyd was choked to death, the most piercing mural that stood out to me was one drawn thousands of miles away from that location. It was amid the barrel-bomb induced rubble and horror in Syria that refugees drew, what was for me, the most powerful image of George Floyd on the last remnants of a destroyed home.
So, yeah, my friend is still right, many of us reading this probably never did know or care much about Juneteenth prior to this moment. Yet, perhaps with the special blessings of the Most High the promise in this difficult time is that more of us than ever are ready to do everything in our power to fundamentally commit ourselves to the true liberation of black people and communities in this country, especially those who have been catching the most hell for decades. I pray that everything we do and have done at IMAN over the years has helped us pave the way for how that liberation can practically look and feel on the ground in neighborhoods like Englewood, on Chicago’s South Side or the West End of Atlanta.
I humbly ask that you join me—at the very least on this day—to commit yourself, your time, your resources and your prayers to making “Black Lives Matter” and Juneteenth more than a hashtag or a temporary headline, more than a political moment or even more than another national holiday. Let’s commit to making this day a radically new referendum on the issue of race and racial disparities and injustice in America and let’s commit to centering black-American liberation as an integral part of our collective human liberation here and across the globe.