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Juneteenth-‘Freedom is Not a Solitary Journey’
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Friday, June 23, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Angela Taylor has worked in multiple executive roles for the Women’s National Basketball Association after captaining the Stanford University teams that won the 1990 and 1922 NCAA Division I women’s basketball championships. She’s coached the Arizona Wildcats, Texas A&M Aggies and Stanford Cardinals.

But on Juneteenth the Mountain Home-born woman who now lives in Boise took a different kind of ball and ran with it as she encouraged an audience at The Argyros Theatre in Ketchum to make the new federal holiday count for something.

“Freedom is not a solitary journey. It’s a collective responsibility,” she told attendees. “We shouldn’t just show up at today’s events and neglect to take action tomorrow.”

Those who showed up for Sun Valley’s first Juneteenth observance filled about two-thirds of the Argyros. They included many young people, including many of the 80 counselors coaching 300 students in math and science at the Wood River Community YMCA’s SummerBridge program, which is big enough to be the second largest elementary school in Blaine County. The Y is doing the program with the Blaine County School District, I Have a Dream Foundation, College of Idaho and Lee Pesky Center.

“We have a really diverse group of young people assisting with the program. They’re excited about Juneteenth so we thought we should be, too,” said the Y’s Executive Director Jason Shearer. “Personally, I see it as a chance to be enlightened, to learn about a part of history I don’t know.”

The 90-minute program opened with a film depicting Martin Luther King’s 17-minute “I Have a Dream” address in which King acknowledged that five score years ago Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It came as a “great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice,” he said.

But 100 years later, he added, the Negro still was not free: “One Hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregations and the chains of discrimination…”

When the architects of the republic wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they signed a promissory note that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, King continued. “It is obvious that today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”

“Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama…go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed….that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he exhorted listeners.

Latonia Haney Keith, a vice president at the College of Idaho, pointed out that her maiden name Haney is a slave name and that she had traced her family’s roots from Virginia to Arkansas.

“We need to understand history as we look towards the future,” she said. “There is no secret there is profound discrimination against Blacks 60 years after Martin Luther King’s speech. But we saw the great resilience of people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps during Reconstruction and this gives us a continued glimmer of hope, of never giving up.”

“We’re in a divided country right now and we need to have a conversation to understand that we are more similar than different.”

Angela Taylor said Juneteenth is a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed America’s slaves, but it also evokes sadness that slavery existed in the first place.

Jan. 1, 1863, was a moment that mattered for 4 million enslaved Americans but not all were freed initially, she said. Many slave owners, particularly in Texas, ignored the proclamation for two long years.

“The systems and structures allowed them to ignore the Emancipation Proclamation and today systems and structures are in place that continue to perpetuate injustices,” she said. “What can we do about these systems and structures to make sure that people are not denied their rights?

“Will we forget the true meaning of this holiday and go on with life or will we think about the true meaning of this holiday and go forward trying to make a difference?”

DID YOU KNOW?

Josh Hurwit, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho, says hate crimes should also be reported. Call 911, then inform local law and FBI. Take video and photographs if it’s applicable.

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