By now you’ve at least heard of Juneteenth. I was first introduced to Juneteenth by my late grandfather, affectionately known as Daddy Leamon.
As a child, my grandfather absolutely did not celebrate 4th of July. In fact, I can’t remember a single instance that he even acknowledged it. My siblings, cousins, and I fondly recall his annual celebrations. We knew that every year for Juneteenth we would have the opportunity to enjoy a cookout at his house or a trip to Chicot State Park. We were sure to dine on the finest “Creek Fish” while washing it all down with the coldest foil-wrapped RC Cola’s. Back then soda cans were thicker, and you could freeze them without worry of explosion. The foil would help hold the cold in. Instead of bags of ice, he would cut the tops off of old water jugs and freeze the water inside of them. He would then place these in the coolers to keep the drinks cold.
My favorite memory was riding from Chicot State Park all the way to my hometown (two hours away) on the back of his pickup truck. He had a camper on the back. Not the camper you would see now. But more like a covering that protected the bed of the truck. Of course, we would never ever do this now.
Very early in life, Daddy Leamon taught us to have a sense of pride in our heritage and to celebrate it. He ensured that we understood from whence we came. But more so, he made it a point to keep the family together. Because not attending the annual Juneteenth cookout was not an option!
I guess you could say these moments were the beginning of my passion for Equity. Understanding the inequities that simply not knowing the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed makes me want to continue the fight for equity and social justice. Seeing the world celebrate Juneteenth is a reminder that while we still have to “Fight for our Civil Rights,” we have made some progress. I look forward to seeing more individuals recognize and celebrate Juneteenth. In the meantime, I will continue to pass on the traditions that my grandfather taught me about Juneteenth. Admittedly, this is a little easy for me to do because one of my children happens to have a birthday right around Juneteenth. This means we are usually having a family celebration anyway. We just have to remind the children that it is because of Juneteenth, that we are even able to freely celebrate their birthdays.