Sunday, June 19, 2005

Take someone with you.

Spring 1865, Southwest Arkansas (Hempstead County?)

Griffin Henry Belk wiped his brow as he looked up at the hot Arkansas sun. That stubborn mule he's driving (or trying to drive) simply refuses to pull the plow. Finally, the mule decided to move. "Good," Griffin thought. "Maybe I'll be able to finish up before sundown." Just then, a white man on horseback approached. The man slowed and Griffin stopped the mule. The stranger spoke, "You know, you don't have to plow like that." Griffin looked at the man with confusion. "You're free," he said, "All y'all are free!" Ahh. The words Griffin had always wanted to hear. As the white man rode off, Griffin unleashed the mule and told the mule, "You go your way, and I'll go mine". And with that, he and the mule went free.

On this, the 19th of June, I remember, among others, Griffin Henry Belk, my great-great-granddaddy. This day is Juneteenth, my favorite holiday. Juneteenth started in Galveston, Texas in 1865, and is the African American Emancipation Day, commemorating the end of legalized enslavement in the US. My grandmother, Fanilla Suttles Cobb (Griffin's granddaughter) told this story often, but my father, Olly Neal, pointed out an important fact: not only did Griffin Belk free himself, he freed the mule! He went above the call of duty and took someone (albeit a mule) with him on his road to freedom. On this Juneteenth consider the ways you can take someone with you as you work to improve your life.

Today is an excellent day to consider the ways you can improve your life and help others:

* Be a volunteer.
* Live ethically.
* Work for economic justice.

Celebrate Juneteenth and the end of enslavement in this country. And as you rise, don't forget to take someone with you. Happy Juneteenth!


Karama said...

My grandmother simply called the holiday the 19th of June. She celebrated it regularly while growing up. The families would work only half a day, and then head to a nearby field where folks would eat a lunch prepared by the women. The men would play baseball, and singing groups would come by to entertain everyone. A good time would be had by all. By the time I was around, celebration consisted of a marade (combination march - parade) through Little Rock. Here's one way Little Rock is celebrating this year.

Karama said...

Want another story?

The year was 1960 and my mother was 19 years old and had just finished her second year of college. The buses in Little Rock were only recently desegregated. My mother sat on a row of three seats near the front of the bus. A large white man shared the bench, but took up more than his share of the seats as he spread himself out comfortably. The bus was packed. At the corner of Van Buren and Kavanaugh a black woman who'd just gotten off work as a domestic boarded the bus. She was carrying several packages and looked around without success for a seat. The only possible available seat was on the bench my mother shared. My mother could have simply offered her seat to the new passenger, particularly since she was struggling with the packages. But instead, she gave her bench mate the eye in hopes that he would pull his legs together and sit up straight so the new passenger could sit down. He ignored her. So my mother gathered all her 122 pounds of strength and bumped the man with her hips to move him over. The startled man got hint and moved over. My mother pointed to the now-empty seat and and told the woman "sit down!" She did and replied "Thank you, honey." The three of then rode the rest of the way in silence.

Thanks to Janet Cobb for sharing her story! Feel free to share your stories of how you took someone with you.

Steve said...

....and as the great great great grandson of a Mississippi slave holder, I want to say its great to share the future with you, and interesting to know about your perspective....

Karama said...

And here's the 2007 Juneteenth post: Free your mind.

Karama said...

After Griffin left the field, he search for his parents for many years. He never found them. He eventually bought 160 acres of land in Ozan, Hempstead County, Arkansas for which he paid $11. Here's a picture.

Karama said...

Oh and he was 17 year old when we walked off and claimed his freedom.

Karama said...

More ways to to help out:

Pass the Heir Property Act in AR in 2015