Something Like Celebration

Goodie Mob, a group with whom I’ve consciously uncoupled because … reasons, sang at the end of the interlude “Free” in 1995, “But I won’t accept this is how it’s gone be / ’Cause I wanna be free, completely free / Lord won’t you please come and save me / I wanna be free totally free / I’m not gon’ let this world worry me.” I think of this song often around Juneteenth. This year, the annual holiday falls on Friday. It’s a celebration, if you will, of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learning two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed, they were free. June 19, 1865.

It’s said many of those who were enslaved scattered when they learned of their freedom. Some went looking for family members, others for opportunities, and even some decided to stay with those who’d held them in chattel slavery. This, as much as those Goodie Mob lyrics, reiterate for me that freedom isn’t a destination at which we arrive, the culmination of a fight, it is the fight itself. I’m concerned in our current strides toward Black liberation and for us at The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, for Black folks who identify as girls and women specifically, and, subsequently, other marginalized groups, we have missed the essence of such a fight: You don’t win and go home. A win of this kind is just the beginning. Our foremothers and -fathers have already taught us that. <Whispers: why else do you think white supremacists fight so hard to maintain their perceived positions?>

At a conference in Detroit a couple years ago, I bought a heathered blue T-shirt that reads, “Get Ready Stay Ready” in yellow across the chest. I like that shirt a lot. There’s something about those words that suggest you’re ready for a fight—one you started or not, but a fight, nonetheless. There’s some merit to that, in a “Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’” kind of way that appeals to the sophomoric, yet generally non-confrontational parts of me. There are aspects of getting and staying ready we don’t often consider.

If the past few months of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s the importance of paying attention to the landscape, being primed to pivot at any moment. When we began the year, as is the case with most new years, many people were excited for a fresh start and dreams of things being different, better. We, at The Lighthouse, for example, were amped to celebrate our 4th birthday, had the campaign and party all planned. I’d had a conversation with a friend about the two of us visiting South Africa’s Table Mountain—she’d been, I’d long since wanted to go. The plan was for our annual cultural learning tour to be bigger, better this year, as young women would be taking on more leadership and decision-making for programming. Big things. What we all got, instead, was stay-at-home orders, a cancelled tour, postponed birthday festivities and anxiety.

So far this year has reminded us there’s a time for rejoicing, weeping, banality and, whatever it is we call that reaction we don’t quite know what to do with similar to that the enslaved people who received the information two years too late. Whether we’re burning it down to start all over or contributing to bail funds, torching department stores or peacefully protesting, advocating for advances in reproductive justice or creating paces of solidarity for Black girls, it is incumbent upon us to #stayready.

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