CHIANG MAI, Thailand — From the early 1600s to the mid-1800s, living African slaves would sometimes be thrown overboard from slave ships sailing the Middle Passage, as the transatlantic voyage of the slave trade was called. If the slave ships faced water shortages or any kidnapped Africans came down with a disease, slaves could be tossed overboard, sometimes chained together en masse. “So many bodies of dead or dying Africans were jettisoned into the ocean that sharks regularly followed the slave ships on their westward journey,” according to that encyclopedia entry. In the new film The Water Will Carry Us Home by multidisciplinary artist Gabrielle Tesfaye, those ships are followed by a very different entity: Yemaya, the Yoruba orisha of the sea and the mother of all life. “There are many stories within African spirituality of water spirits following the slave ships, Mami Wata, the presence of Yemaya,” Tesfaye said in an email interview from her home in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
“Juneteenth isn’t just a celebration of emancipation, it’s a celebration of our commitment to make it real.”- Jamelle Bouie
This time of year is associated with the heat, vacations, and the Summer Solstice. Kids are out of school; people are preparing for the 4th of July and many are giving a collective sigh of relief as summer marks a milestone in the evolution of the calendar year. But for a portion of Americans, there is a milestone in June that has nothing to do with any of these things and instead is solely about freedom. Juneteenth is just that – an historic day of freedom for Black Americans. Filled with celebrations, festivals, and remembrance, the date June 19 marks the end of chattel slavery in all of the states within the U.S. According to the Juneteenth historical website:
“Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
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The dog days of summer are here, marked by the rising of the star Sirius in the morning sky, “the star they give the name of Orion’s Dog, which is brightest among the stars, and yet is wrought as a sign of evil and brings on the great fever for unfortunate mortals.”¹ On August 13, Sylville Smith was killed by a Milwaukee police officer. In the following two nights, eight businesses and numerous cars were burned, rocks and bottles were thrown at the police, and guns were fired on multiple occasions, resulting in at least one hospitalization. Meanwhile, the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center has alleged that the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) prison gang may be planning “to kill correctional officers and Aryan Brotherhood gang members” in commemoration of Black August. Black August originated in the 1970s following the August 7, 1970 deaths of Jonathan Jackson, James McClain and William Christmas during a prisoner liberation and hostage-taking at the Marin County Courthouse and the August 21, 1971 death of George Jackson during a prison rebellion in San Quentin. Prisoners participating in Black August “wore black armbands on their left arm and studied revolutionary works, focusing on the works of George Jackson.
[Warning: This article deals with a topic that may be upsetting for some of our readers.]
On Aug. 26, 1920, American women were granted the right to vote when the Secretary of State certified the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ninety five years later, the day is acknowledged as “Women’s Equality Day.” While the Utopian ideal of gender equality in the U.S. is far from realized, long term statistics do suggest significant improvements for American women. Political and cultural shifts have opened doorways, allowing for opportunities that were not available to the many brave women who walked in those early protests nearly a century ago.