Not Feeling So Free.
A Juneteenth message from OPAL founder, Cicely L. Fleming, 9th Ward Alderwoman.
Juneteenth is the date that stolen Africans were “given” their freedom..... two years after the government “set” them free. I recognize that the end of the chattel slavery was a huge milestone for the US, however, let us never forget that the slaves in TX was illegally forced to work an additional TWO years and this wasn’t because TX didn’t get the news.
This new national recognition of Juneteeth comes after the world has been set blaze with protestors after two more Black men were murdered by police. The weeks of protests and riots that we are seeing has left many Americans grasping at anything they can do, say, buy, post on social media to “pursue justice”. The call to celebrate Black freedom seems to contradict the continuation of Black oppression.
Juneteeth 2020 is on the heels of (and in the midst of) a health pandemic that killed more Blacks than Whites; laid bare the countries racial inequities; and pushed wider our racial wealth gap. For the last three months most of our country has been forced to sit with and look at the racial inequities that are usually able to easily ignore.
My soul struggles to celebrate the day my ancestors were finally “given” their delayed freedom because I know that even after the orders were given, they were not truly free. Article 3 reads:
“...slaves are free...relationships of former masters and slaves becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages....they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
So former slaves are now advised to stay with their former masters; work for wages (they have no legal recourse to claim); not allowed to be on military property, and cannot be idle.
What freedom did they gain? What rights did they have? What monies could they earn? What protections did they have? What land did they own?
This Juneteenth, I will celebrate all the adversities that Black folks have overcome. The victories that we’ve made. The mental, physical, and emotional health that we’ve sustained despite all the ways this country has tried to break us.
But, this Juneteeth I will not celebrate a delayed emancipation and applaud companies for giving their staff a day off when our pay wages remains lower; our promotions still slower; our voice still ignored; and our ability to be killed, jail
ed, or fired depends on the way we “make someone” feel on any damn given day at any damn time.
If this is freedom, we are all doomed.
OPAL (Organization for Positive Action and Leadership) works to achieve racial equity in Evanston through advocacy, voter education, civic engagement, and candidate development.
OPAL engages and equips Evanston residents to actively participate in the decisions that affect their lives; works to ensure that leadership reflects and prioritizes racial equity; and works to amplify the voices of Evanston residents who have been under-represented.
About Cicely Fleming
Alderwoman Cicely L. Fleming is a dedicated community advocate and a founding member of OPAL. Fleming has served the community as a PTA President, a member of Evanston’s Mental Health Board, and as a volunteer at Connections for the Homeless.
An experienced and resourceful community advocate, Cicely has a record of community involvement and conflict resolution. Cicely builds cohesion among community groups and members to find creative and productive solutions for issues with city ordinances and school district policies.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from DePaul University, with academic and personal interests in policy development & analysis; asset-based community development; voter engagement & mobilization; and racial equity in government.
An Evanston native, Cicely enjoys raising her three children here along with her husband Andrew. She enjoys reading, running, spending time friends, and community organizing.