Juneteenth is a special day for the community I grew up in. We had an annual celebration in our local park that had games like horseshoes, dominos, intense basketball tournaments and dance competitions. We also had a huge cookout. What made it amazing there was a committee that went to businesses asking for donations so members of the committee could provide all the food, drinks and games for free to around 3,500 – 4,000 people.
My dad was head of the Juneteenth committee for many years. It was our summer lesson to go around and ask for donations. More importantly, it helped us understand how to speak to people and appreciate everyone for who they are. My town is less than two percent Black. Throughout the years my brothers and I experienced unimaginable racism. My parents wanted us to understand that not everyone is the same. They had us ask for donations specifically for Juneteenth so we could learn about the good in those who didn’t look like us. It was horrible in the moment, but now, being an adult, I commend them for making us do it.
Juneteenth is important to my family. It’s special to have an understanding for our history. Growing up, most students do not have black history classes. When learning about American History, Blacks are usually left out and slavery is rarely discussed at length. Juneteenth highlights our untold history. It shows our strength as a people.
Several of my fellow Motus employees are joining in the celebration and raising their own awareness around Juneteenth. Here are just a few of the ways they are doing their part to educate themselves and support the Black community.
Juneteenth is a very special holiday for my family, usually celebrated with a cookout and music. For those who may not know, here is a great video I found that gives the back story of why this is a day we celebrate.
Danielle Dupree, Customer Success Manager
I am embarrassed to say that I did not know (or don’t remember learning about) the significance of Juneteenth until this year. Just another disappointing example of my white privilege having grown up in a mostly white town. But I am proud to say that my small, white town is having a Juneteenth Rally to foster discussion about what we can do in our town for the Black members of our community. I am looking forward to attending and the discussions and action items that come from it as I continue to grow in my knowledge of this issue.
Laura Weiler, Operations Analyst
Learning Through Non-fiction
Two non-fiction books I read for high school summer reading were The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore and The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride. Both of these books had a profound impact on me in my formative years in terms of the way I thought about what it truly means to be Black in America.
The Other Wes Moore chronicled the story of two young Black men growing up in the same neighborhood in Baltimore who went down two very different roads: one ending up in jail, the other becoming a Rhodes Scholar, decorated war veteran and entrepreneur. The book examines the broken world in which they both grew up in and attempts to answer how likely their stories could have been reversed.
The Color of Water, on the other hand, explores author and musician James McBride’s upbringing: raised by a single, Jewish mother who endured hardships when she married a Black man in 1942 and how her morals and values influenced McBride’s outlook on growing up a mixed-race child in Brooklyn. The book is a very telling tale on race and identity in America. As I was growing up, these two books offered me a different perspective and helped me learn and realize the true strength, brilliance and resiliency of Black people in our country.
On Juneteenth, I’m looking forward to Alicia Keys and John Legend facing off for some friendly competition as they take part in the long-awaited Verzuz battle to celebrate their collective, amazing catalogs of music.
Jeff Porter, Content and Event Specialist
I’ve been reading How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. In this work, Kendi shares his approach to understanding and dismantling racism in our society and ourselves. It’s not enough to be “not racist” – and I recommend this book to anyone who hopes to be an ally to their Black colleagues, friends, and neighbors.
Sara Woodworth, People Operations Manager
I’m Still Here provided a compelling and moving view into Austin Channing Brown’s experience as a Black woman navigating the world of mostly white spaces. I felt myself growing exhausted on her behalf when person after person expressed shock that she is not a white man named Austin, when her classmates look to her for absolution of their guilt and when her colleagues pay little or no attention to her pleas for meaningful change. The way she writes about these sadly all-too-common experiences made me realize just how far I and so many others have to go.
Scott Rankin, Vice President of Technology
Finding New Perspectives Through Fiction
Set in the mid-1800s before the end of slavery in the US, Beloved tells the story of Sethe, a woman who escapes from her enslavers but is confronted with a terrible choice and devastating loss. Years later, she encounters a ghost from her past – a ghost who also symbolizes and evokes the collective memory and trauma of kidnapped and enslaved African-Americans.
Homegoing begins in 18th century West Africa, where the reader meets two half-sisters separated by circumstance. One sister, Effia, is forced into marriage with a British governor in charge of the Cape Coast Castle. The other sister, Esi, is captured in a raid on her village and ultimately sold into slavery across the Atlantic. The novel follows the stories of the sisters’ descendants – and the stain of slavery – across eight generations up until the turn of the 21st century.
Both novels are beautifully and lyrically written – and understandably painful and difficult to read. But they are brilliant works of prose and haunting, important testimonies to the ongoing atrocities of slavery.
Sara Woodworth, People Operations Manager
Learning through Listening
The Breakdown with Shaun King is one of my favorite Podcasts. It’s a daily podcast and he explains important stories of injustice and racism and oftentimes provides action steps on things you can do to help. He continually challenges my way of thinking and brings to the forefront areas of privilege that I don’t always recognize. More importantly, he also illuminates how others are harmed by these exact same policies, constructs and actions that I benefit from. It’s been eye-opening and has helped me grow as a human. If you’re not sure of where to start, here are two of the episodes I recommend.
Brian Erdmann, Customer Success Manager
Pod Save the People is an award-winning podcast for a reason. The hosts, DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, Sam Sinyangwe and Dr. Clint Smith III talk through current events and prescient topics from local and national levels, taking the time to bring understanding and actionable steps to the situations outlined. Listening to this show has made it clear just how systemic racism is, but also how much we can do to change that. I recommend checking out the episodes below:
Ben Reiland, SEO and Content Specialist
Educating yourself with the above is a great start, but it’s by no means the only way to broaden understanding. No one book is going to give you an overview that grants immediate clarity on a complex, centuries-old issue. You can find more books about the Black experience here.
Education isn’t limited to reading. Films and documentaries have been educating and offering insights for decades. Here’s a list of documentaries and films that share perspective on the difficulties the Black community faces. Or, if you find listening more accessible, here’s a list of more podcasts that can broaden your understanding.