Honor the day by being present for what stirs you most.
It can be easy to forget we’ve been in a pandemic for over a year—and in that time we’ve learned how to adapt to ever-changing circumstances that have kept us digging and searching for a greater understanding of what our peace and healing can and should look like: a healing that gets to be as broad and as nuanced as our learnings during what had been such a troubling time. For Juneteenth, it is up to us to dictate how we get the freedom of our ancestors, and the still yet to be discovered freedom we seek for our community.
On this day of liberation, we get to savor all that is good; welcome love and joy with open arms; and let go of what doesn’t live in service of our joy and healing. As much as Juneteenth is now becoming a nationally recognized holiday, it is still and always will be a holiday for the Black community to celebrate the ways in which we have found strength in our breath, in our bones, and in our living. We get to hold space for our well-being. And that work involves us making time for what truly matters.
We get to use June 19th as a call to action to be here for whatever speaks to us in the moment. And while a day may not be enough time for us to fully embrace our healing and solace, the day serves as a reminder for us to pay attention to how we’re utilizing the time we’re offered. However, in order to reap the benefits of our healing, we have to make time for what matters.
We make time by letting go of the things that may be keeping us from enjoying our lives to our fullest extent. Each day that we are afforded the opportunity to wake up and breathe a breath, we can choose to show up for ourselves in the ways that we require. Juneteenth, as much as it is about the freedom of our people, it also gets to be a time for us to honor and celebrate our growth, and the steps we’ve taken to move ourselves closer to a liberation that is not tied to man-made laws and processes, but the kind of spiritual liberation and evolution that is needed in order for us to truly heal as a community.
We have to put the stake in the ground and decide what is most important in our lives, and fight for the things we deem sacred. And that can be anything that provides us comfort, that provides us nourishment—the things that enhance our well-being and move us in ways that heighten our experience of life. Our life does not need to be centered around our trauma, around our pain and suffering. It does not need to revolve around what we’ve gone through to get here. Rather, we get to use those things as a compass in order to create the space needed to embrace what lies ahead.
Our lives do not have to begin and end with the pressures of these systems that have been put in place to not only oppress us but keep us from honoring our truth. Our freedom gets to be and should be our priority. And if there is any day that gets to serve as a reminder of what our freedom can look like, it’s Juneteenth. We get to choose our peace, our joy, and prioritize our healing 365 days a year. But, if you’ve missed your chance to reflect on the glory of what our potential freedom could look like, lean into June 19th.
Joél Leon is a father, dreamer and storyteller. Follow him @joelleon.