At 96 years old, Ms. Opal Lee is not only a wealth of wisdom and knowledge but is energized about the future of this country. After receiving great acclaim for her efforts getting of getting Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday, she has continued to advocate for greater acknowledgement for Black history and other social justice issues at the center of our society.

Ms. Lee, also known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth," sat down with EBONY to chat about the importance of Juneteenth and her hopes for our country in understanding the universal cruciality of freedom for all.

EBONY: How do you feel about being dubbed the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”?

Ms. Opal Lee: I'm everybody's grandma. I'm sure your grandmothers have told you things that you kept in your heart and I want you to keep the things I'm telling you close as well. Believe it or not, older people have important lessons to pass down if young folks just sit down and listen. We love them. We want the best for them and we're going to always cherish them.

Image: courtesy of Ms. Opal Lee

At your core, you are an educator and are one of many who have fought to have our history highlighted in this country. What feelings arise when you hear about people looking to remove Black history from schools?

I got busy and went to work! I wrote a children's book just for this reason as I decided that I wasn't gonna let them not have access to our history. Our young people need to know our history so that it doesn't get repeated and we can continue creating change.

Who should be able to celebrate Juneteenth in this country? Is it something that only Black-identifying folks should have access to?

Freedom is for everyone. I think freedom should be celebrated from the 19th of June to the Fourth of July; however, none of us are free until we are all free. We are not free yet, and Juneteenth is a symbol of that. We have many disparities that we need to address like joblessness, homelessness, health care and climate change. We are responsible for changing that. If we don't do something, we're all going to hell in a hand basket. We need to get busy seeing about these disparities and advocate for better. Everybody should make themselves a committee of one to change somebody's mind—and many minds do need to be changed. If people have been taught to hate, they should be taught to love. When I think about the fact that we took 1,500,000 signatories to Congress, we were prepared to take many more to the White House. Don't you know 3 million people could turn this country and shake things up?

What do you want folks to remember you for in our history books aside from Juneteenth?

Freedom, freedom, freedom for everybody! I don't want people to think that celebrating freedom via Juneteenth it's just about a Black holiday or just a Texas holiday. It's about knowing that we all have a stake in making this the best country in the world. It all hinges on each of us having the freedom to do whatever is necessary to get there.

I also want our young people to be realize that they are the ones to get us out of the quick. They have so many resources like the internet, and I want them to be sure that it's used wisely and make change.