On Friday, I went to a Black Lives Matter action in center city Philadelphia. I found it on sixnineteen.org. Maurice Mitchell spoke at a staff meeting and suggested to check out that site. That guy is brilliant and has an analysis of our current moment that is incredibly compelling. Follow him and read what he has to say.
I’ve been hesitant about attending any demonstrations, because of COVID-19. I was relieved to find out that almost everyone was masked, and people were really trying to social distance. I’ve been to a lot of actions over the years, but I have to give use props to the organizers of this one.
We stopped traffic at 15th, and JFK Boulevard and the organizers asked us to lay on our stomachs with our arms behind our back. They told us we would be there for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, and if we thought it would be uncomfortable, they said it would “but not as uncomfortable as having someone kneel on your neck during it.” Photo #14 of this gallery shows you what we were doing.
Everyone (including myself) laid on the ground in silence. At the corresponding times, the organizers would quote George Floyd in a bullhorn. It was incredibly powerful. Lying on hot filthy pavement with nothing but my own mind, hearing “Momma!” and “Momma! I’m through,” brought tears to my eyes.
We stood up and marched on to the art museum. While one of the organizers was speaking, he said, “Remember, this movement is about love. Let’s take a minute and turn to the person next to you and tell them you love them. Now turn to the person on your other side and tell them you love them.” It was sweet, earnest, and genuine. I’ve not been to many labor actions where we told our neighbors that we loved them.
I didn’t learn about Juneteenth until I was in my 20s, and the first time I celebrated it was 2013, I happen to be in DC for work, and my office was hosting a Juneteenth chili cook-off. I remember thinking, “is this a DC thing?” I didn’t know anyone in Philadelphia that celebrated it. I am so happy this holiday is becoming something that more people know about. Hopefully, white people use that day to carry some burden in the fight for racial justice so others can take a moment to celebrate emancipation.