“Juneteenth”

(The following “PrayerNote” comes from Oasis Ministries for Spiritual Development)

 
 
Juneteenth—Black Independence Day
 
On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, enslaved African-Americans were told by the Union army they were free. It was two and a half years after President Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation. Texas was the site of the last skirmish of the Civil War and the last state to receive the Emancipation Proclamation.
 
The image above is a diagram of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship, c. 1801. It was an image used widely in the abolitionist movement. I enter prayer with it before me this day and this poem from Lucille Clifton (1936-2010). “Jesus,” “Angel,” and “Grace of God” were the names of slave ships.
 
slaveship 

loaded like spoons
into the belly of Jesus
where we lay for weeks for months
in the sweat and stink of our own
breathing
Jesus
why do you not protect us
chained to the heart of the Angel
where the prayers we never tell
are hot and red as our bloody ankles
Jesus
Angel
can these be men
who vomit us out from ships
called Jesus Angel Grace of God
onto a heathen country
Jesus
Angel
ever again
can this tongue speak
can this bone walk
Grace of God
can this sin live
            –Lucille Clifton
 
In an interview for the Antioch Review Clifton said: “Writing is a way of continuing to hope…perhaps for me it is a way of remembering I am not alone.” When asked how she would like to be remembered Clifton said: “I would like to be seen as a woman whose roots go back to Africa, who tried to honor being human. My inclination is to try to help.” To read more on Lucille Clifton and her award-winning poetry go to: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lucille-clifton
 
~Glenn Mitchell

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