June 19, 2021

Liberation Isn’t a Date, It’s a Destiny

Well, it’s been a year. A year of remote work and remote education for so many; of forced precarity and impossible choices for so many more. A year of distance from loved ones. A year of the most widespread Black-organized and Black-led uprisings for racial justice the nation has seen in decades, here in Portland and around the world. A year of fear and of care like no other.

As Spring turns to Summer, I’m thinking about transitions and transformations. What it means to emerge from the invisible to the undeniable, the margins to the mainstream, from suffering to solidarity. From enslavement to emancipation.

What it means to truly be free.

All of Meyer Memorial Trust will be marking Juneteenth this year. Juneteenth has been celebrated for many decades by Black families as a date when the last enslaved people in the nation finally learned they were free. This year, the Oregon State Senate voted unanimously to officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday beginning in 2022. The U.S. Senate followed suit and unanimously passed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday. While overdue, it is still worthwhile as it is essential to have momentous dates of liberation on our shared national calendar.

Juneteenth, much like the Fourth of July, is both a celebration and a warning. It is a promise of what could be but has never yet been; a challenge against complacency and a call for constant vigilance.

This past year gave me a shot in the arm. Yes, the one that helped me see my aging parents in person again and lets me work from the beautiful, new Meyer headquarters in historic Albina. But also another one: the shot in the arm that inoculated me against the illusion that progress is secure, that justice is inevitable. The work will never be done, so I need to be clear on what it will take this year, next year and in the years to come to bring us closer to correcting the wrongs of history and bringing us closer to justice.

On Juneteenth, we can remember, reflect and recognize that liberation is achievable. But it won’t come only from marking a date in the past, it will come when we make liberation our destiny.