Love in Alabama: A Juneteenth Reflection

Love has a remarkable way of transcending boundaries and bridging the gaps that divide us. As we approach Juneteenth I’m finding myself reflecting on a recent trip to Alabama with White Men for Racial Justice (WMRJ). In early March of this year, 50 white men from all over the country convened in Montgomery, Alabama to deepen their anti-racism work. I wasn’t sure what my experience would be like in Alabama as a trans person, or with this group of white men that I was still getting to know, one thing I didn’t anticipate was how a theme of love threaded its way through every experience of that weekend.  

Embracing Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom

While the trip took place in March, I am sharing this narrative now to commemorate Juneteenth and shed light on its significance.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. It marks the day when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, two years after it was signed. Juneteenth is a testament to the struggle for liberation and a reminder that freedom must be fought for and protected. By understanding and acknowledging Juneteenth, we affirm the importance of recognizing the full scope of our nation’s history and actively working towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

The Interwoven Threads of Oppression: Embracing Intersectionality

As a transgender man, I approached this trip to Alabama with a mix of excitement and nervousness. Alabama’s reputation for its disdain towards trans individuals amplified my apprehension. However, I found solace in the cohort of white men from WMRJ, united in our commitment to challenging racism and embracing intersectionality. We understand that oppression knows no boundaries and affects individuals across various identities. 

On the first day, the group handed out T-shirts with Fannie Lou Hamer’s “Nobody’s free till everybody’s free” printed in bold across the chest. This journey became an exploration of shared struggles and a testament to the interconnectedness of our liberation.

Love as a Catalyst for Transformation

Visiting the MLK National Memorial park in Atlanta became a pivotal moment in my journey. The powerful echoes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words reverberated through my being, reminding me of the transformative power of love. Love, justice, and equality were woven into nearly every conversation, speech, and interaction that I had on this trip. This foundation of love fueled our determination to create lasting change and build a society where every individual is treated with dignity and respect.  And while Dr. King spoke of the arc of history bending towards justice, we know it doesn’t bend that way on its own. It takes an awful lot of people power, resilience, and persistence for society to advance towards true liberation for all of us. 

The thread of love continued on through this whole trip. Every guest speaker or presenter spoke of love, and being anchored in and acting from a place of love. And, when I shared my experience as a trans man with 50 cisgendered men, I received nothing but an outpouring of love.

Historic Sites and Unveiling Truths

During our time in Alabama, we embarked on a transformative exploration of history. We visited the Equal Justice Initiative Museum and Memorial (EJI), where we confronted the painful realities of racial injustice and from the legacy of slavery, and the way it ripples throughout history into the present day. From Jim Crow to the prison industrial complex, systemic racism is alive and well in this country. The museum compelled us to reflect on the deep-rooted systems of oppression and the urgency of dismantling them. We also paid homage to the brave freedom riders at the Greyhound station and honored the Mothers of Gynecology Monument, which highlighted the often-overlooked contributions of Black women to modern medicine through brutal, forced experiments on their bodies.

Our Liberation is Tied Together

Our journey culminated in a trip to Selma, where we marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Standing shoulder to shoulder with BIPOC community members and activists, we recognized that our collective liberation is inextricably linked. Through solidarity and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, we can create a society that upholds the principles of love, justice, and equity. Juneteenth reminds us that until everyone is free, none of us can truly claim liberation.

As I reflect upon my journey through Alabama in March, a journey that sought to deepen my understanding of my role in and how to challenge systemic oppression, I am reminded of the profound significance of love, intersectionality, and unity. This narrative, shared now in honor of Juneteenth, serves as a call to action and an opportunity for others to deepen their understandings of our histories. We must recognize that our liberation is intricately interconnected, and by embracing love as a guiding force, we can begin to dismantle the oppressive structures that persist.

Juneteenth represents a celebration of freedom, but it also serves as a stark reminder that our work is far from over. Our collective liberation requires unwavering solidarity and an unwavering commitment to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities. By embracing intersectionality and understanding that the struggle against oppression spans across multiple identities, we can forge a path towards a more just and inclusive society.

On this Juneteenth, let us not only celebrate the progress made but also acknowledge the work that lies ahead. Love must be coupled with action, as we strive for comprehensive and equitable policies that address systemic injustices. Together, we can create lasting change and build a future where every individual is seen, valued, and afforded the dignity they deserve.

Let us weave our stories together, united in the pursuit of justice and freedom for all. Our liberation is tied together, and on this Juneteenth, we honor the past, embrace the present, and march forward, guided by love and a shared commitment to a better tomorrow.

What you can do today

Keep Learning.

Commit yourself to learning our true histories. Be committed to learning and understanding how slavery and and more modern forms of oppression like mass incarceration are impacting black and brown Americans every day. A couple great places to get started are reading Ibram Kendi’s “How to be Anti-Racist,” watching the 6 part series of the 1619 Project on hulu, the film 13th on Netflix or if listening to podcasts is more your speed check out the Seeing White series on Scene on Radio.  Also, if you just want a brief introduction, be sure to check out our episode on Responsibly Different™ from our series on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).  UN SDG number 10 is Reduced Inequalities and in the episode we had on the folks from Sweet Livity talking about how racism shows up in the workd place, and then we explored the impacts of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration with Fab 5 Freddy and the President of the Last Prisoner Project. 

Advocate for H.R. 40: A Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.

It is also crucial to highlight the importance of taking action beyond personal reflections and understanding. One concrete step individuals can take is to urge their representatives to support and co-sponsor H.R. 40, a bill before Congress that addresses the legacy of slavery and seeks to create a commission to study and consider a national apology and reparations for the harm done.  

H.R. 40’s purpose is straightforward yet profound: to acknowledge and rectify the deep injustices inflicted upon African Americans through slavery, racial and economic discrimination, and their ongoing impacts. By establishing a commission to study and propose remedies, including a national apology and reparations, this bill seeks to address the historical and ongoing consequences of slavery. 

I encourage readers to reach out to their representatives and express their support for H.R. 40, as it represents a vital step towards healing, justice, and equity for all. Together, let us advocate for the implementation of meaningful measures that dismantle systemic racism and promote a more inclusive society. H.R. 40 is only the first step, it is simply looking to understand and study those impacts, which is something that is long overdue for us all.

By Benn Marine June 16, 2023