Good Words on Juneteenth

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On Saturday I had the privilege of attending a Juneteenth celebration hosted by K & J Smoke Shack down on Beasley Street in Huntingdon. There was a good turnout, and a most excellent time was had by all. And there was certainly no lack of good eating. If you haven’t tried the food at K & J, I highly recommend it.

There were some good words spoken, as well. Trent Hampton and Kaleshia Yarbrough both gave speeches during the event, and though I didn’t make it in time to hear Mr. Hampton, I did catch the speech made by Ms. Yarbrough, who recently earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree from Murray State University.

So, while I’m sure no one wants to hear a pasty white guy like me expound on Juneteenth, I’m going to step aside this week and let Dr. Yarbrough have the honors. The following is her speech in its entirety:

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Good evening everyone,

It is with great honor that I have the pleasure of speaking to you all today. Juneteenth, also known as the African American Emancipation Day, is annually celebrated on June 19, commemorating the end of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863. However, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that word reached Galveston, Texas that the Emancipation had been made formal. In Kentucky and Tennessee, confirmation was received on August 8. For centuries our ancestors hoped for, prayed for, and longed for their freedom. That’s why Juneteenth is a deeply emotional moment and celebration of pride, resilience, and determination. The freedom our ancestors fought for gave us the freedom to walk in our purpose and choose our paths in life, not only in our careers, but the freedom to share our talents and abilities, our kindness, generosity, and love without limitations. This holiday will always be of historical and spiritual significance, reminding us that together we can overcome obstacles and together we can accomplish anything.

Imagine being denied an education. My Uncle Sonny used to say, “Back in the day if anybody wanted to keep something from African-Americans, they’d put it in a book.” So moving forward, there are actions we must take in order to honor the legacy of our ancestors. Get an education and educate your children. One thing no one will ever be able to take from us is knowledge. So today I encourage you to read, do your research (and I’m not talking about Wikipedia or Facebook), I mean utilize credible sources, remain teachable, and don’t ever stop learning.

In addition to obtaining an education, use your voice; and by using your voice I mean speaking with Godly wisdom. These opportunities were afforded to us because of the works of our ancestors. For centuries our ancestors were denied the right to speak, live freely, and the privilege to become whatever their hearts desired. Yet here we are, free to do so.

I also want to encourage you all to support one another. So, what does that look like? To support is to encourage or uplift. It’s being present, even when you’re not there physically. It’s supporting one another spiritually … covering and praying for others. It’s assisting and advocating for others or a cause; putting our people on … because that’s the real flex and what it means to apply pressure. It’s speaking well of our brothers and sisters, not tearing one another down … because after all, that’s how the talents and abilities of others are elevated.

We’ve got to stop tearing each other down. You don’t have to highlight the failure of others in order to succeed. Success is in us. Besides, God never intended for us to tear one another down or to be in competition with one another because He made it possible for there to be overflow for everyone who has faith in Him. The same way the slaves worked together in trying to attain their freedom is the same way we should be encouraging and uplifting one another.

This year, history has been made. This is the week our 46th President, Joe Biden, signed a declaration honoring the legacy of our ancestors by making it a national holiday. Juneteenth is official! What looked like what wouldn’t happen happened in 2021 despite the difficulty surrounding the pandemic, losing loved ones and financial struggles. If there was any Juneteenth we should be celebrating, it’s definitely this one, not to disregard the others because they were important, but this is significant because there is now a signed declaration people can no longer ignore … it is a federal holiday … federal. How did we get here? Because we supported one another. So let’s celebrate! After all, we put the unity in community. Happy Emancipation Day! Happy Independence Day!