Making Gumbo

Juneteenth 2017


Juneteenth; in Texas, in 1865, the newly freed from enslavement began to celebrate their Emancipation on June 19th.

June 19, 2017, I gave the Juneteenth Celebration Lecture for the NCSU African American Faculty and Staff Organization.

I told the story of my parents who were born into Jim-Crow, legal racial segregation and sharecropping; my father, Mr. O-geese Nacoste in 1918 and my mother Mrs. Ella (Malveaur) Nacoste in 1922. I told their story of living, surviving, thriving and raising and educating their children in the midst of hard, lawful but immoral, racism.

 Yet, they thrived; I and my siblings are the evidence. That is what Juneteenth is to celebrate; the legacy of a strong, determined people.

 But Juneteenth was always more than a celebration of Emancipation. Henry Louis Gates points out that Juneteenth was a celebration yes, but also a moment to be used “…for measuring progress against freedom and inculcating rising generations with the values of self-improvement and racial uplift.”

 Look, I know, we all can see that right now we are in the midst of difficult days. But that is not new.

 In 1968, Dr. King told us to get ready for these days; he said… “We’ve got some difficult days ahead.”  Dr. King said that in 1968 to warn us against complacency.  He also said: “We are in a battle… for the soul of America.

 No matter whether you are black, white, mixed, GLBT, Latino-Hispanic, woman or man, Muslim or Christian, gamer or cosplayer, for all who believe in human rights, in equal justice, we all have a role to play in the struggle.

Juneteenth is a reminder that the work continues and that we shall overcome because of the example of the legacy of strong and determined peoples.

Find your role. Seize the time.

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