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By: Ikeoma Divine

Freedom came June 19, 1865 to Galveston, Texas when it was announced that the enslaved people were free. even though Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued two and a half years prior on Jan 1, 1863. The difference between Texans and the rest of the nation was the lack of knowledge. The enslaved were essentially free but didn’t know.

Lack of knowledge is the reason that some of us are still trapped or “enslaved in our minds” today.

“So, come sit down at my table, have a piece of cornbread and some REAL soul food… the kind that nourishes the soul.”- Ikeoma Divine

In 2006, I visited Ghana for three months. During my visit, I spoke to local elders in different villages about their version of the slave trade that heavily influenced their history. There are approximately 40 slave castles in Ghana. Out of all the stories, they all said the same thing, “They took our strongest.”

Eerily, the realization set in that despite the many who didn’t make it out of the slave castles; those who didn’t make it across the Atlantic voyages, and those who didn’t survive once they landed in the diaspora, we are still here. That means we are descendants of the strongest, of the strongest, of the strong. This statement always gave me chills because it made me realize that I did not descend from victims, but from survivors. In spite of everything that has been put in our way to deter us here in this country, we not only survive but surpass what is expected. 

Do you understand what I just said? Let me explain it further.

The white men did not have a desire to steal or capture our elderly or weakest, they would bring no value to them in their eyes. They wanted our “warriors,” those with strength, those they felt would bring in the most money, those who would be healthy enough to breed, work and build.

Do you really understand what that means?

It was those captured individuals that they lined up – stacked up – on the slave ships and brought them across the oceans, far away from home. Those individuals who had to lie in each other’s waste, fight disease, still bleeding from wounds they sustained during capture. It was those strong individuals who had to fight to stay alive, mentally, and physically. And while many made it to their new, doomed home in America, many did not.

And remember, ALL of them were STRONG.

Only the “strongest” of the strong survived. And we are all descendants of them. Do you realize you have, running through your veins, the blood of the strongest people to ever survive one of the most heinous mass casualties known to humanity?

Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t know our real history in this country… only the negative narratives that have been fed to us by propaganda in the media and public education. Despite the atrocities of slavery and the Middle Passage, Black people, once freed, went on to build our own towns, neighborhoods, churches, schools, and Wall Streets, but not many people want us to remember that.

Black people in this country are not synonymous with poverty, blind submission, and violence. When we subscribe to those narratives, we negate the documented history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and generations of entrepreneurs that thrived in Black towns across this country. It is blatant disrespect to our ancestors who thrived economically in a system set up against them. 

In the spirit of Juneteenth, let’s celebrate the message of freedom and strength. Let’s acknowledge and give reverence to the ancestors who laid the foundation and showed us how to thrive against all odds. If you’re having the urge to start your own business, follow your intuition. You may have an opportunity to live your ancestors’ dreams or continue an ancestral legacy you didn’t know about. 

What message do you need to receive that’s stopping you from being free? Happy Juneteenth!!!

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