Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Are You Celebrating JUNETEENTH 2020?


Juneteenth, celebrated on the 19th of June, commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas FINALLY learned they were free. Presumably, they were the last ones to learn of their freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War, a full three years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrated by African Americans for 155 years, the holiday is finally getting the “mainstream” attention and respect it so richly deserves in the wake of worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Major companies now offer paid time off to their employees to celebrate. Virtual and socially distant parties have been planned all over the country. And there’s even a call for an international celebration where NO ONE spends a single dime.

Full disclosure: I was a full-grown adult when I learned about Juneteenth. I never learned about it at the PWI schools I attended; and my family, which is largely in Michigan where I was raised, didn’t celebrate it. Even after I learned about it, I never really “celebrated” it. My friends didn’t plan cookouts or parties around the holiday. I never bought or received a Juneteenth card. Other than a few social media posts, I never personally celebrated the holiday.

But, for me, all that changes this year. Why? Because as “down” and “woke” as I profess to be, I finally get it. Juneteenth starkly reminds us of a simple truth: none of us are free until ALL of us are free. Chattel slavery in the United States did not really end until the enslaved souls in Galveston, Texas were finally freed.

I get it now.

Here in the United States of America, that self-proclaimed bastion of liberty, justice, and equality, we’re in the midst of a reckoning with our white supremacist beginnings that’s been centuries in the making. As I write these words, cities, towns and communities clamor to remove the racist symbols and statues that dot our landscape. After three straight weeks of protests, people demand greater accountability from not only the police, but from institutions and individuals (see all the “Karens” and “Chads” loosing their jobs over racist behavior). On the surface, we have much to celebrate.

However, Black folks partying on June 19th doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten all that still needs to be done to dismantle the structures and institutions that uphold patriarchal white supremacy in this country. In what’s likely the most important election of our lifetimes, voter suppression efforts threaten our ability to exercise our hard-won right to vote. Anti-Black violence and hate crimes run as rampant as ever. Black unemployment continues to rise, while Black wealth continues to drop. And COVID-19 still threatens us all.

But we’re going to celebrate Juneteenth anyway, because we’re still here, and we’re still fighting. We’ve reached a critical moment in our history, as a nation and as a people. Whether we’re marching, donating, teaching, or organizing, we’re working hard to ensure that America lives up to it’s promises to all of her citizens. And for that reason alone, we deserve to celebrate.

I may be late to the party, but I plan to celebrate Juneteenth 2020 with bells on. Well, maybe not bells. More like with a mask on and from the safety of my socially distant home. But I will celebrate.

Because NONE of us are free until ALL of us are free.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone! Stay safe and healthy.

#Juneteenth2020 #BlackLivesMatter #AskJanice

My Next Love Will Be A Civil Rights Love v 2.0

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., SuzyKnew! is re-running an updated version of this article which first appeared February 2012.

With both MLK Day and Valentine’s Day behind us, I’ve been reflecting on what a married friend shared with me a few years ago in confidence. She said her next love would have to be a man who participated in the US Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s. She mused about divorcing her husband – the father of her only child – a man who is artistic, unique and a mathematical genius – and finding a truer, deeper love. The qualities her husband possesses provided her the love she needed in her late 20’s; but years later, my friend, who came to the US as a young girl, finds it’s not the basis of the lasting love she is in need of to take her through her 40’s and beyond. Today, she needs a love that will excite her to her very core and have deep and true meaning, like the love provided by a man who has risked his reputation, livelihood and very life for the justice of his people and others.

What she means is male activists in the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t take the same risks. Yes, the cause was – and is – noble. But, most likely the man occupying Wall Street was there because he had already lost his job – or his house. So, he had nothing more to risk by occupying Wall Street. And, if he did have a job, in all probability he was not at risk of losing it – or his life – because of his activism. Martin Luther King, Jr and the the civil rights leaders of the 1960s put everything on the line to change society. Because of them, Blacks, other minorities and whites from working class and ethnic backgrounds have more rights and freedom today. For my friend, who confronted racism as a young mixed-heritage immigrant girl, only a man who could take such risks – and show that deeper love for all humanity – could provide real, true love that would touch a woman’s very core… forever.

But, civil rights leaders are now in their 70’s, and 80’s and are dying out. Maybe my friend would be moved by a man who participated in the Arab Spring. Egyptian, Tunisian, Libyan, Syrian and other Arab men put their reputation and lives on the line. But, now several later, the hope of creating a better and more democratic Arab society is being replaced by incredible despair, as the tragedy of Syria continues to worsen, and autocratic leaders solidify their grip over Egypt and Turkey. Today, 5 years after the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO police and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement after the shooting of Travyvon Martin in 2014, US Black men continue to be recklessly slaughtered by the police, in spite of increased awareness of the problem by mainstream society and municipal police departments.  The most recent victim is Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year old father of two and the target of 20 police shots while in his grandmother’s backyard.

Fifty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, something has gone very wrong. In many ways, it’s like living a surreal and new version of the Emmett Till story over and over again.  Almost daily, we are being confronted with in-your-face injustices. We are all being called to take action.  My friend may find a man in her inner circle who is answering today’s call to lead and fight for justice.  Maybe she will be inspired by him and others to actively demonstrate love and hope in the face of hate and despair.  Or maybe the true love she is really looking for is a true love for herself and she is the one who is called to be a civil rights leader. It takes passion, commitment, and the true love of humankind. And, you may have to put everything at risk.

True love comes in many forms. And, men like Martin Luther King, Jr and others dedicated themselves to loving all of humankind – not just one woman.

The original version of this article was published in February 2012

Mother’s Day: It’s Complicated

Mother’s Day is a day when mothers can do no wrong and daughters are expected to be dutiful and respectful. But, most of all, everyone should be happy and grateful. But, we all know: Mother’s Day is complicated.

Here are few select articles to help you process the complicated feelings you might be experiencing, as the holiday winds down.

Have you been trying to get pregnant but now realizing you may never be the mother you always wanted to be? You may end your life childless.  Here is Huffington Post’s What Mother’s Day Feels Like During Infertility.

Is Mom locked up? For something stupid? Black Lives Matter and other activist groups marked this year’s Mother’s Day by bringing home mothers jailed for low-level offences.  Read Vibe’s Black Activists Are Paying It Forward By Bringing Home Jailed Moms For Mother’s Day here.  

Is this your first Mother’s Day after the passing of your mother? I have two close friends who recently lost their mother and hope Celebrating Mother’s Day When You’ve Lost Your Mom speaks to them and you.  It may not be easy even after if it has been over 10 years since your mother’s death. Or maybe you’re still mourning your favorite aunt.

Have you lost a child? Mother’s Day is never the same. Facing Mother’s Day After The Loss Of A Child may speak to you.

Or was your mother abusive, too harsh, or are you an angry daughter? You may find Ebony’s Dear Black Women: Mothers And Daughters Need To Stick Together relevant and helpful.

No matter your situation, SuzyKnew! wishes you the best this Mother’s Day.

Photo Courtesy: Ebony

Black Love In The Midst Of Black Death

True Love?

I keep thinking about sex in the context of love and love in the context of survival and survival in the context of leading a full, happy and safe life. I am not in a relationship because I haven’t met anyone I feel a connection to, also because I think I’m still in some sort of love with my ex-boyfriend. Usually I would feel some twinge of longing and loneliness, some sort of nostalgia for a relationship, but in the past year my gratitude grows that I don’t have a man to share my life with. If I had a man he would probably be black, and judging from my size he would definitely be tall, and possibly be big. Judging from my tastes he would have dark skin and he would be smart, interesting, and aware of the world around him and why it is how it is.

He might also be shot. Or roughed up by the cops, or thrown in jail on some flimsy pretext or forced to stand there and watch while some cop molests me under the guise of patting me down, like in the movie “Crash”. He might stop being safe the minute he leaves my arms and he might hold his tongue to avoid being brutalized and be called shifty or insist on his rights to avoid being victimized and be called threatening. He could have every permit, every license, all the registration, all the credentials, all the degrees, all the stuff we think will make us a little more human in their eyes, and still not make it home.

If I had a man I would be scared to death, all the time. I’m already scared all the time. For my brother, for my cousins, for my uncle. It is draining. It makes me wilt with hopelessness, the fear for them. And if I had a man I would love him…differently. Greater, perhaps. More fervently, more personally. The extent to which it would break my heart if something happened to him, the desire to protect him and never let him leave my bed, would be…intense. My love for him would be…sticky, in a way that it isn’t for the men I’m related to. And him getting hurt would wreck me. First it was Trayvon Martin then it was Eric Garner then it was Michael Brown then it was Akai Gurley then it was Tamir Rice then it was Walter Scott then it was Freddie Gray then it was Alton Sterling then it was Philando Castile and now some crazy people are going around picking cops off like deer. How do you love a black man in a world like this? How does he love you when he is filled with fear and rage and disappointment? What do you tell the sons who are born of that love?

When my friend told me that what happens on some street somewhere with some cop somewhere has nothing to do with her personal relationship with her man I told her she was wrong. We live in a world with external stimuli, we move and breathe and function in spaces that are so much bigger than the sum of us. Every time the person you are with is terrified, that fear is in his touch, every time he is incensed, that anger is in his kiss, every time he is lost, that desolation is in his love. It’s not that he is bringing his baggage home or taking things out on you, it’s that what he is holding is not luggage. He’s not carrying it in his hands, he’s not keeping it in his pockets, it’s embedded in his skin. The weight of the world is inside him and every time he is inside you what is happening in Louisiana and Missouri is too. The hope is that what he feels is something he gives you access to, something he lets you carry some of, something he uses to hold you tighter instead of to push you away.

Somewhere, sometime, when I was in college, I read something that said that for a black man and a black woman to love each other, in a world that seeks to make us hate ourselves, is an act of revolution. I believed it then but I would swear by it now. So I remind myself that I am part of this revolution. I remind myself that though I cannot keep a black man safe I can keep him loved. I remind myself that black men can love me in a way that let’s me see my fullest self in their eyes, and in loving them back I find in myself the very best of my ability to protect and adore and hope. I can sign petitions, I can write my representatives, I can march, I can contribute to the Kickstarter for Alton Sterling’s kids. Though it doesn’t seem like it will matter I can do something. I can love my brother, I can love my cousins, I can love my uncle, I can love my male friends. Fiercely, with abandon, as if the world were ending right now and I might not get another chance.

I can call them and cry with them and make them laugh and remind them of their power and their strength and their grace. I can remind them that black women aren’t immune from danger, from a system that kills, and that we hurt for their hurt but we also carry hurt that is entirely our own — and as we comfort them they must comfort us. But most importantly, I can give them the space to feel. The permission to shake their fists at the sky and burst into tears at the injustice of it all. I can give them the right to cry, the right to not have it all together every minute of the day. That is what I can do for the men I love. And if I was in a relationship with a black man I could be kind to him and patient with his pain.

I could take him to an amusement park, or to an arcade, or to ride bumper carts, or to the beach, or anywhere else where he can be a kid again and life can be uncomplicated and something close to free. Then I could take him home and put some music on and wear my sexiest lingerie and fuck his brains out. I could find us just one minute where we have the space to forget that the world is not a fair place and the darkness around us is deep.


F.N. is a thirty something Ghanaian free-lance writer who alternates between Accra and Washington, DC.