Tag Archives: Juneteenth

FMD: Time Has Come Today

Your doorbell rings. On the steps is a traveler, someone who looks to be in their early twenties. They’re a local resident. They think they haven’t gone far out of their way, but they seem confused. In reality, they’re lost. They have appeared on your doorstep at the end of a sudden journey.

The traveler looks down at a note in their hand. By their puzzled expression, it’s clear that the note was not there a moment ago. They hand you the note. It reads:

I have arrived from the past. When I left, it was August 7th, 1965. My journey has left me unable to talk with you, but I can listen. I know the general outline of the intervening years between now and when I left.

Back home, I play & listen to music all the time — it helps me make sense of the changing world around me. I am permitted to stay with you for the span of five songs. Please play songs that will tell me something about your world, and how your world emerged from the world I just left. I will take what I hear back with me.

You bring them inside your home, stall for time by getting them something to drink. What are you going to play? Why?

Max Roach – “Tears for Johannesburg” + “Prayer/Protest” from “Tryptich”

Max Roach, drums; Abbey Lincoln, vocals; Eddie Kahn, bass; Clifford Jordan, tenor sax, Coleridge Perkinson, piano.

Live on Belgian television, possibly circa 1964. Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now Suite is a landmark jazz album and an artistic jewel of the Civil Right Movement.

We get two pieces of ”Tiptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace” here. I’m not sure why the third was not included on the video, but it’s worth a listen to complete Roach’s thought. (Follow the link above.) He doesn’t simply “Peace” as a nirvana state. It’s jagged, weary, even incomplete.

”Tears for Johannesburg” was Roach’s artistic reckoning with the Sharpsville massacre, which I’d encourage you to read about — particularly right now.

Juneteenth marks the last arrival of the news of an emancipation formally proclaimed two and a half years earlier. By the time of its arrival in Galveston, the proclamation’s author had been reelected & assassinated. We should not forget that slavery continued in a couple Union states until the 6 December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified and finally abolished the practice. Nor should we forget that last Union state to ratify that amendment was Kentucky — on 18 March 1976.

Johnson’s amnesty, Reconstruction’s failure, Jim Crow, the mass perpetuation Lost Cause myth, federal anti-immigrant laws, segregation, and redlining thwarted a national reckoning with the political, social, and moral devastation of slavery & racism for generations.

Juneteenth’s rightly a day of celebration. It’s also a reminder of how far we yet have to go as a country, how fragile progress can be. It is a call seeking a response, because the work of emancipation remains incomplete.

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