Today is Juneteenth, the day that commemorates and celebrates Union soldiers who landed in Galveston, Texas in 1865 and emancipated Texas slaves, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery.
Can you imagine an African American slave learning that she was free from oppression, that his chains were forever broken, that they could leave the plantation?
For some of us, imagining comes fairly easily if we’re still shackled to a hurtful relationship or a harmful behavior. Far too many of us hide behind personas because we believe others want us that way. We make choices that are not really ours because we don’t know what it’s like to choose without fear of being shamed or denigrated in some way.
The Rev. Dr. Irie Session, a Christian Church, Disciples of Christ clergywoman and resident pastor for New Friends New Life, a Dallas non-profit that restores and empowers trafficked teen girls and sexually exploited women and their children, spoke at my church yesterday. More accurately, she preached a rousing sermon at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, about freedom and how the very air of freedom is often silent.
Rev. Irie focused on the Bible text of Acts 16 that describes a slave girl “who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future (Verses 16-26).”
As the story goes, the unnamed slave girl made a lot of money for her masters. But her spirit would not and could not remain silent (You can read the passages for yourself.) As a result of her expressing her true self, spiritual circumstances were arranged to later unchain and release all the prisoners locked up with Paul and Silas, the two men with whom she traveled.
We read all about their freedom but not the slave girl’s. We don’t even know her name. In fact, we never read another word about her.
What keeps you silent?
I believe the slave girl represents anyone who struggles to name the things that keep them chained. While today is Juneteenth, this idea of finding freedom from bondage goes way beyond African Americans to include all people of color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender or religious affiliation.
Rev. Irie asked, “Where in your mind are you experiencing oppression?”
How am I holding myself back with sabotaging thoughts of doubt or inferiority?
Am I afraid to speak up for fear of rocking the boat?
Could I be withholding or shaving off bits of my truth so that someone else looks good or remains unsettled?
In this post, the first one in six months (but I’m baaaack now!), I’d like to issue a challenge for you:
Go figure out who you are.
Do whatever it takes.
Then be that person.
No matter what.
Find, as Rev. Irie said, a way out of “no way.”
If you don’t, if you choose to remain chained to whatever holds you back, you are living beneath your privilege, she says, because “human beings were meant for freedom.”
Let freedom reign.