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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Celebrating Juneteenth

As I kneel in the garden, soil slips through my fingers and I offer a prayer in remembrance of my ancestors, whose forced labor helped build the U.S.

This June 19 at Alice's Garden, a 2-acre urban farm in Milwaukee, we will celebrate Juneteenth Day, the oldest-known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the U.S. This year is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (made official Jan. 1, 1863), but Juneteenth Day recognizes June 19, 1865, as the true end of slavery. This was the day the news of emancipation finally reached the enslaved in Galveston, Texas, delivered by Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger.

During the celebration at Alice's Garden we will pour sacred libations, an offering of water onto the land, naming those whose prayers and faith helped sustain them through the inhumane conditions of slavery. We will give thanks for their endurance and honor their strength. We will call upon their courage for those of us who continue the fight for food justice in this land. We will break bread. We will recall those people of faith, such as the Quakers, who were among the first Caucasians to denounce slavery and join the abolition movement in the American colonies and Europe. We will cultivate a bit of soil in the Fieldhands and Foodways program area at Alice's Garden, a demonstration section that pays homage to the agrarian and culinary traditions of our African and American Indian ancestors. We will turn to one another to testify to the fortitude and persistence of God's children who could not rest until all were free.

The tagline for my email signature reads: The unfinished work of the ancestors is the blueprint for my life. For me, these words are more than a tagline. They are my inhale and my exhale; my obedient understanding of why I was brought into creation. Many of God's people continue to be held captive on issues related to land, food, health, and the imbalance of wealth and power in this nation. Food justice is about those issues and more. The tussle for food justice is some of the unfinished work of my ancestors.

This Juneteenth Day provides a cultural and spiritual venue to remind our gathered community of the psalmist's words: "In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free" (Psalm 118:5; New International Version). This Juneteenth Day we will pour a libation for food justice at Alice's Garden. 


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