I am old enough to remember a time before integration of schools. I remember when the buses would not carry black and whites together on the same bus to school. I remember seeing a sign on my grandmother’s grocery store/juke joint that read “white in front, black in rear”. I remember the picnic table outside in back, under a large tree, that the black men had to drink their purchases at. Not allowed inside. I would sit out with them, and laugh at their jokes, till I got snatched away to go home. I remember, the first day of public school, when it was my first time going to school with a black person. I remember , myself and Robert Greene, had a fight, not started over our difference in color. Yet, Because:, he asked me “white boy?”. Why are you wearing those funny shorts.? Shorts my mom had made for me. I told him, I didn’t want to fight, for Mama had told me that animals fight, and people had words and minds, where they could talk things out, and not fight. I remember getting slapped, and still not fighting back. I remember, the day I became the first white student body president at an 80 % black high school. I remember the joy I had in thinking I was on the verge of this new wave of unity in the world, where everyone was able to look past color, and get along. I remember thinking that when someone says, “I’m not prejudice, “ I have a lot of black friends”. Really means that they are still prejudice, for they had to point that out. I have always just had “friends”. I remember the years that have gone by with ALL my friends, all my laughs, all my conversations, all my art shows, all my music nights, all my sharing hurts, tragedies, successes. I remember then seeing those in the world, spitting out hateful rhetoric against others, and I remember thinking that the world is in reverse with unity, love for all, and a sense of freedom. I am not remembering now, I am thinking that in order for all to be free, we all must be free. I read from Maya Angelou, that wouldn’t it be nice when that day comes that We can teach freedom for all “from the same book”.. I hold hope for that. I hold this beautiful innocent child, in MY arms also tonight. This innocent child, did not ask for your lesson of division. This baby just asked for love. I believe if the entire world held this baby in their arms tonight.Then freedom would be something that we would never have to celebrate again. We could just celebrate FREE “love”… free “ peace”.. free “happiness” for all. Is it really that hard to remember to be one human family? Happy Juneteenth! Friends. I love you.

F.messina (Junteenth eve.2022)