Thursday, June 19, 2008

Juneteenth is upon us...

About two weeks ago on a hot, humid, now rainy Saturday afternoon in Chicago we had been experiencing a string of days where temperatures hovered the high eighty-mid ninety degree range with crazy humidity.  Although it had been fairly mild, as there had been a very nice breeze all week, I knew it, the breeze that is, would not last.  

So I broke down and I bought an air conditioner with money I don't really have because my pet rabbit has been cranky and unwilling to frolic joyfully around the house as she normally does.  She was so cranky yesterday that she made me cranky.  I suppose that's more a function of the fact that I work from home and sometimes, for days on end, she is my only company.  Don't get me wrong, I also bought it because I know that soon enough I'll be caught on a day when the temperature is 98% with 90% humidity and the sun streaming into my windows.  It will be a 72-hour period when the temperature fluctuates about five degrees but you can't tell because the humidity hovers between 90% and 97%.  It will be one of those periods where you walk outside and you start pouring sweat even if you don't really sweat, because of the humidity.  Anyway, I got it.  

I started thinking though, about the ancestors, and how they managed to harvest cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, indigo, rice, you name it in the heat of the South, the Caribbean, Latin America, etc.  How did they slave away (no pun intended) in infernally hot kitchens cooking for families, or work as plantation blacksmiths in the searing heat and humidity of all of these regions?  The realization of that feat alone demands that we straighten up our acts and cut out the ridiculousness, self hate, and self-abuse that have become the hallmarks of the daily lives of black people everywhere.  Oh my god.  Really, if someone stuck me in front of the cotton/sugarcane/tobacco field or rice paddy, even in the pleasant breezy heat of the last few days, expecting me to hoe, plow, chop, or whatever you do in any of those situations, I would have been, well, there are no words.  

So each day in the heat of this and every summer to come, I will maintain quiet, yet fierce reverence of my ancestors, and heck even my not so distant deceased relatives who were bound to that life by Jim Crow and sharecropping.  Think about that as you try to beat the heat this summer.

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