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Juneteenth Reflections 2021

Happy Black American Freedom Day! Before I get to my story, I'd like to share that it's cute and all but I'm uninpressed with Juneteeth being a federal holiday. Now let's get into it.

Picture it, late 1940s-early 1950s, my grandparents were a part of the Great Migration. As a kid, they didn't use that term when speaking to me, but that's what it was. I call myself Black as opposed to African America not because I hate the Motherland and have no interest in Africa but because I cannot trace my roots beyond five generations.

Before someone starts, I'm aware I could take an ancestral DNA test, but that's not the same as family traditions and stories being passed down surviving generations. For many people who look like me, there are stories that many would like to forget so you can imagine they didn't want to give voice to them. Much of our history was stripped away and in numerous cases, replaced with false narratives. Though all my grandparents are gone to be with the Lord, I am learning more and more the absolute necessity of connecting with family, especially outside of funeral gatherings and bi-annual reunions.

Traveling home, the passengers seated next to me made small talk yes, yes, they were I mentioned I was coming back home from visiting family including great aunts in Alabama when asked a question. That white man said to me "how nice that is to be able to trace your roots..." I can't remember what followed 'roots' because I had to keep myself from blacking out as the militant traits in me fought to surface. I was stunned but tried to remain composed. I responded as politely as I could and stated "Unfortunately, I'm unable to trace much further because," I had to stop at 'because' leaving my supportive clause unfinished to keep myself from ranting. He then went on to mention how his wife once gifted him a DNA kit to trace his lineage. He spoke about all the "crazy stuff" you find in your past like how his ancestors fought on both sides of the Civil War and how one of his great-great-grandmothers was fulled blooded Cherokee. Yeah, crazy...

Here's the thing, a DNA test won't reestablish connections or change the horrid history of much of the roots I am able to trace. This is not to sway anyone from taking the test nor to insuate that I'm against it, I'm simply stating my stance based on what I've come to learn and believe.

On this Juneteenth, I reflect on the resilience and beauty of my people. I am grateful to those who survived so I could thrive. I live more intentionally to strive to go beyond surviving, beyond only existing day-to-day. God created us for more than that. On this Juneteenth, we still fight for freedom in this country that we've had a complex relationship with to say the least. Let them hear your freedom cry. Let your joy be your weapon.

On this day, I would like to share a couple thoughts.

1. Ebonics is a dialect, a language of its own. I have found myself code-switching due to professional nature of some of my work for years now. It is common amongst those of the culture. I am compelled to share that it is disrespectful to assume that Ebonics is merely slang. Languages were lost through the Transatlantic, but fragments of what was lost is found in the flow of Ebonics. It is the code speak between Black people in a room of prospective predators to gage safety or signify relation. It connects peoples and much of the slang stemming from this complex concept that is Ebonics has often been appropriated by the very same folks who are confounded by it.

The term used by academia is African American Vernacular English. It is also coined "Black English." Linguistic studies have been conducted. There have been debates, and some may never accept the reality, but just because you do not understand does not give you right to minimize Black culture. The following links barely scratch the surface, but they're good starting points.

2. There has been the systemic removal of fathers from Black homes. I could link supportive references because there is great evidence of such, but then I'd be here all day. When one steps out of oblivion, one can see a lot.

This systemic attack has fueled the ugly stereotype that Black men don't take care of their kids. While that may be true for some, I count myself blessed that my Dad proved that notion wrong. I don't look at it as more blessed than someone who didn't grow up with his or her father, rather I consider myself blessed differently. One day, I'll likely marry a Black man if I'm blessed to get married, and he'll defy the odds also. To the Black men who treat Black women with dignity, provide for and serve as an example to their children, walk uprightly as pillars in their communities, and so much more, I salute you.

To my Daddy, thank you for sheltering Courty and me as best you could. When I stepped into adulthood and saw even more of the realities of being Black in America, you made some things look easy. Your little girl thought you were invincible, and now your grown daughter respects and honors you for your love, strength, and resilience. Thank you for teaching me family is everything. Everytime you laugh, I hear defiant, glorious, and beautiful joy. I love you Daddy.

Happy Juneteenth my people! I love us. Celebrate today and don't forget to teach the babies something of truth.

If no one has shown you today, I love you but God loves you better.

Be blessed.

-K.T. Braxton

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