Juneteenth. For some of us, this holiday evokes feelings of Freedom, Black liberation, and celebration. For a few others, like my sisters and I, the celebrations are also birthday celebrations! Unfortunately, for many others, maybe even you, this is the first time hearing of it.
The irony is that Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated in the United States which commemorates the federal orders that finally reached the town of Galveston, Texas--two and a half years after they took effect. With this the last vestiges of the enslaved Black population had finally learned that they were free, despite having been declared so on January 1, 1863 according to the Emancipation Proclamation. Because Texas’ location had limited timely enforcement by the United States Army, Black people in the region had continued to toil in complete ignorance of the independence they had gained until June 19, 1865. Unfortunately, true freedom remains elusive to this day.
The US is under attack from two pandemics.
COVID-19 has left the country with 45.7 million people claiming unemployment as of June 18th.
Black people are dying at disproportionate rates while the virus continues to spread unabated.
Through it all, fear, pain, depression, and hopelessness lurk patiently, waiting for the scraps.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Black population in or with ties to the US are feeling these emotions more intensely than any other community. We see people protesting police brutality and sharing how their companies need to support Black professionals now more than ever, and this is true. What we aren't seeing, however, are the stories of how Black people, and the various intersections of identities tied to them being Black, are being affected on a personal level by the need to combat these two pandemics of Coronavirus and systemic racism.
Being in China over the past few years, I’ve learned how to deal with microaggressions about my skin tone and stereotypes about Black people. It’s still difficult at times, but to me it’s worth it because I no longer feel the constant anxiety about simply being Black and presenting myself in a way that I feel comfortable. I don’t worry that White people will be afraid of me. I don’t worry about potentially life-threatening profiling by the police. But at the end of the day, I was born and raised in the US, and I can’t help but feel the void of compassion and information for and about the Black experience when news of racially charged events make its way into my Chinese circles. This year for my birthday, I needed to take action.
The "Pandemic² : Our Black Stories" project was created to fill the void of Black representation with a video series starting on Juneteenth that shares a collection of personal, authentic stories of multinational Black life, focusing specifically on the stress created by the combination of systemic racism and COVID-19 in the United States. These stories will highlight common struggles among Black people while drawing attention to our individuality as people, as well as capture the different ways that we may be reacting to our surroundings. Storytellers living abroad will also touch on how being outside of the country right now adds another layer of complication to an already difficult conglomeration of events.
Through sharing these stories, the team and I hope to inspire those who previously could not put a face to the injusticed and those who did not feel compelled to act. That's why we're also raising money for Color of Change, an organization helping to fight American racism and injustice in the areas of criminal justice, media, economics, and representation and empowerment. Any donations made by the end of June are also eligible to be matched by my job, LearningLeaders who will be supporting donations within China for Black Girls Code. They will be matching up ~$5000 (30,000 RMB) total for both organizations.
When President Donald Trump announced that he would hold his first rally since the beginning of the onslaught of COVID-19 in the US on June 19, 2020 in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, he made this need inexplicably clear. Tulsa, the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre, was once home to Greenwood, the wealthiest Black community in the country. The Greenwood District or “Black Wall Street” went up in flames in 1912 in the worst incident of racial conflict in US history. The Pandemic² team expects better. Black people in the US, and necessarily all people in the US, need better.
We hope that these stories will accomplish three things.
First, we hope that they intensify the already fierce passions within those who have been acting to raise awareness about the needs of Black people for support and grace. Second, We hope that these stories humanize the victims of injustice and compel those who were confused or uncertain to act--your first action can be taken with a click on the “share” or “donate” button. Allies are needed now more than ever.
Finally, if nothing else, we hope to provide voices for other Black people who share similar intersectional identities or feelings. Voices that remind them that they are not alone. When you're feeling overwhelmed or worn out, when you just don't know how to talk to your coworkers about how you're feeling, when another person uses a microaggression, or shares a video with good intentions that leaves you exhausted instead, know that you are not alone. These are Our Black Stories.