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Juneteenth 2020

celebrate freedom Juneteenth
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Please note: the views expressed on meredithhurston.com are strictly my own and do not represent the views of my employer, The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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Juneteenth 2020 is unprecedented undecided. But wait, before you run to exit this post because you’re tired of hearing that word (unprecedented) hear me out.

There hasn’t been a time in our lifetime where the world has been on pause. This pandemic and subsequent quarantine has caused people all over the world to be still. They have had time to observe and think. We had already kicked off the year with the tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and 7 other souls. Within 6 or so weeks after that, we had community transmission of COVID-19 all around the world. It was starting to spread like wildfire in the U.S.  The combination of tragedy, anxiety and panic laid a nearly perfect foundation for the world to observe what we’ve been trying to show them for 400 years. Of course, that is none other than systemic racism, rooted in white supremacy. The cornerstone brick we hope to build on is the infuriating murder of George Floyd. I’ve only seen still images of Mr. Floyd as he lay on the ground as life left his body. However, the vast majority of the world has access to media and has seen the 8:46 video of Mr. Floyd crying out for his Mother as he takes his last breaths.

So today is unprecedented. In the last week or so, we’ve seen corporations, government officials, citizens and sports figures speak on injustice, police brutality and racism. Most were clear on their stance admonishing it. Some weren’t as clear and some should have kept their mouth closed.

What I know for sure is that people are speaking out that have never spoken out before. At best, they may have taken a passive, more conservative approach with their words in the past. One such example that hits home for me is the demonstration of solidarity and support from leadership and staff at Johns Hopkins Hospital. On June 5, 2020 the House Staff Diversity Council at Johns Hopkins Hospital hosted at #whitecoatsforblacklives demonstration. My estimate is that over 500 joined in to kneel and speak the names of many who’ve been lost to police brutality in recent history. It was refreshing and a symbol of hope my spirit needed. 

Even more surprising was the email I received yesterday morning informing all Johns Hopkins Health System employees of the option to take 4 hours of paid time off to contemplate and reflect on the Juneteenth holiday and “this important moment in our history as a nation.” I’m most appreciative of the time to celebrate the freedom of my people. So today, I chose to start viewing the Watchmen series, which is a part of HBO’s free offerings to amplify black voices (available 6/19-6/21/20). I also did some research so I can accurately tell my Mom’s story as a freedom rider during the civil rights movement. I rounded out the day by screening Miss Juneteeth, a heartwarming film with a nuanced storyline of pageant life, living and loving while black in Forth Worth, Texas. It’s available on streaming platforms everywhere. Channing Godfrey Peoples and Neil Creque Williams, the husband and wife duo of director and producer, spent time chatting with us after the film. They are a delight! It was a pleasure to hear their story about film school, movie production and what can happen when we follow our dreams.   

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