Friday, June 18, 2021

Poetry Friday -- Juneteenth


Now That Juneteenth is a National Holiday

We pause
in honor of Liberty, Hope,
and Resiliency.

We pause
with clear-eyed acknowledgement of slavery's role
in building the economic foundation of our country

We pause
to consider a better way forward
for our not always glorious national history

We must not
co-opt this celebration with white commercialism

We must not
let this celebration undermine the right to protest

We must not
allow this celebration to eliminate the ongoing work of justice


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021 (draft)



As I read through different versions of the news of President Biden's declaration of Juneteenth as a national holiday, I jotted words and phrases that became this poem. This is Juneteenth through the lens of a white American who was ignorant about Juneteenth until embarrassingly recently because of gaps in my formal and informal education. I am excited to share the joy of Juneteenth, but I understand that in many ways, the deep significance of Juneteenth is not mine to claim. 

For words that weren't mine to write about liberty, hope, resiliency, and our not always glorious national history, read (or better yet, listen to) "When Fannie Lou Hamer Said" by Mahogany L. Brown.

And here are some children's authors, illustrators, and creators telling what Juneteenth means to them.


Buffy has a delight-full nature poem and this week's Poetry Friday at her blog Buffy Silverman.

And there are just six five more slots left on the Poetry Friday roundup schedule. Claim one here!


15 comments:

  1. Love the poem, Mary Lee. I, too, was ignorant about Juneteenth until recently. Its "deep significance" is not mine to claim either, but it does feel good to celebrate this special joy as a country.

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  2. Mary Lee, thank you for pausing and stating what we must not do regarding Juneteenth. It is so amazing that this was passed before John Lewis's voting rights bill. Amazing. We have so much work to do.

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  3. As you wrote, this is not time for us who are white to claim, but we can support as you do with your poem. Denver has celebrated Juneteenth for a long time so I have studied it with students so that they could participate after school was out with families. This weekend, it's extra big, back in person with the parade & more art since last year was the pandemic & all virtual. It's the waiting for more that takes me aback, too much waiting. Thanks, Mary Lee.

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  4. Mary Lee, this is a wonderful poem...love that you found the words. Thank you for sharing the message. I like learning with you.

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  5. I think my comment disappeared again. I don't remember what I said, but imagine it was really profound. :-)

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    1. Thank you for your patience with our blog. I'm working on trying to figure out a fix, really I am!!

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  6. You found some wonderful words to inspire your poem. So many ways are educations were lacking, our understanding limited. We can hope that kids today are more clear-eayed in seeing our country and their place in it.

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  7. Lovely words, Mary Lee. The repetition of "We pause" is very effective. Like you, I was never taught about Juneteenth. I think I first learned about it through Floyd Cooper's wonderful picture book Juneteenth for Mazie.

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  8. I'm in the "gap" with you on my education around Juneteenth, but I celebrate the fact that it is now being celebrated! (can you imagine such a thing just 1 year ago?!) Your poem's structure is inviting and the message is resonant. Thanks, Mary Lee! :)

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  9. We pause...Yes! I watched the June Nineteenth special on ABC last night. I was so happy to see how the history plays such an important part in the development of America. I also loved the piece with President Obama. Being a reading specialist in urban settings, I was inspired to honor the culture of most of my students. Many people do not have this opportunity but last night's show shared how today's generations of chefs, farmer, musicians are filled with pride of their ancestors legacy and how it impacted America. We have a long way to go thought.

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  10. Oh, golly--I came here early yesterday, got distracted by Fannie Lou and Mahogany, and forgot to come back and comment. Yes, pausing to just NOT is a discipline that so many of us need practice with. Thanks for the reminder!

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  11. I hope your "We must not"
    "right to protest" and " ongoing work of justice" that these issues will carry on and bring more change, thanks Mary Lee!

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  12. Thank you for this powerful post, Mary Lee. Many of us are just starting on the journey of learning "slavery's role in building the economic foundation of our country."

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  13. Well said Mary Lee. I love every line of this poem. Hopefully this is another step towards much-needed, overdue chant.

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