June Meetup | Juneteenth: Justice + Joy

Juneteenth. A time for reflection, meditating on the future, and celebration; and we did exactly that during our June Meetup. DJ Oluwafemi kicked the night off by giving us a taste of the specially curated playlist he made for our first ever dance party. We then jumped right into the core purpose of our gathering – sharing our history and connecting with each other. 

Our hosts Lili Stiefel and Ariel Bastida reminded us to sit in reverence for the women that birthed us, and the land we live on. With our moment of silence, we honor the lives of people who are typically left out of the narrative so for Juneteenth, we dedicated this moment to the lives, work, and liberation of Black trans folks.  

We chose to send donations for this month to The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), which has a perfect score from Charity Navigator. EJI is the creator of the National Memorial For Peace and Justice, the first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people. 

We reiterated the Community Guidelines – as we do for every Meetup – to create a safe space and facilitate conversation where everyone can grow and feel seen and heard.  
Lili reminded us to take deep breaths and rest, because conversations about slavery are heavy. Check out this thread by The Creative Collective NYC to read more about why you deserve Juneteenth off.
Our Juneteenth discussion was kicked off by Dr. Kendra McCray, Associate Professor of History at Atlanta Metropolitan State College. She shared the most important tenets of Juneteenth with us, and invited us to meditate on them as she explained them one by one (recap here).

Dr. McCray ended her lesson by reminding us to check in with ourselves and ask:

“What does freedom mean to you?”

Author and historian Ricky Prestige Leverett Jr. joined us next, and moved away from focusing on the actual day of Juneteenth. Instead, he turned our attention toward enslavement of the mind, and shared this excellent resource on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

Cris Eli Blak, an award-winning storyteller and playwright, moved some of our community members to tears when he shared the heartbreaking story behind the inspiration for his monologue Rabbits and Foxes.   
The speaker portion of the evening wrapped with medical anthropologist Carolina Nvé Díaz San Francisco, sharing her journey into fully embracing her Black identity. An intimate look at her role as a Black anthropologist in the diaspora can be found here.
Our own community regularly impresses us with their talent and their willingness to be vulnerable in our space, and this Meetup was no exception. Musician and Veteran Darius Lemelle explained the interrelated reasons for leaving both the military and the Democratic Party.

Lili’s uncle and poet, Lawrence Walker, read his piece, Living Like Flowers. Afterwards, we carefully ushered the vibe from introspection to joy, kicking off our dance party with Femi.

“The only person that can truly free you is yourself.” - Ricky Prestige Leverett Jr.

Enjoy an hour of Femi’s joyous mix in celebration of you.
Juneteenth Wishes and Reminders From Our Community Whiteboard:

No one can tell your story but you.
Freedom is fragile.
Aim for solidarity.
Stand together.
You are enough, and you are worthy.
Annoy people until they give you space.
Stand for what you believe with community.
Trust your struggle.
Black is beautiful.
Defy the odds..
Sharing your story is liberation, love is liberation.
Going to freedom.
The New Africa.
We are ancestors to the future generation.
Help those who align with my beliefs get into office.

Chat Recap:
The June Meetup was an amazing mix of education and celebration. If you were too busy dancing to Oluwafemi’s set, no worries. All the resources shared are listed below.

Dr. McCray’s Juneteenth Syllabus

Dr. Kenja McCray, PhD, shared this article about The Republic of New Africa, a self-determinist Black nationalist group who argued that Black people were colonized and remain colonized to this day:
"Free the Land!": Fifty Years of the Republic of New Africa

Our very own CEO Lili Stiefel shared this important speech by Ivan Van Sertima:
Ivan Van Sertima - They Came Before Columbus

Dr. Kenja McCray, PhD, shared this article about the introduction of the theory of communalism by Black Panther Party’s co-founder, Huey P. Newton:
Huey P. Newton - Intercommunalism in 1974

Dr. McCray also generously shared her research on the Oyotunji Village, the first known Black nationalist settlement developed by Orisha worshippers.
Kenja Mcray - Oyotunji Village, 1970 - Today


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