A Call to Action by Darryl J. Terry, II
The story goes that the Juneteenth celebration is one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. While the premise isn’t 100% true, it’s based in fact. Many argue that Juneteenth was the day slave owners allowed their slaves to finally go free. There is documented proof that for some ten years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were still being held illegally in captivity.
Juneteenth found its roots in the period of emancipation in Galveston, Texas where more than 300,000 enslaved black people received the news that they were free on June 19, 1865. This occurrence was more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which proclaimed that all slaves in the Union were free.
We all know, however, that slavery was only the beginning of the 400 years of oppression of black people in the United States. It’s still continues to this day where those who are sworn to protect black lives constantly take justice into their own hands and kill black people because of their own insecurities and biases.
And while we celebrate Juneteenth, I charge all people to understand and reflect on what Juneteenth means to you individually. If you’re a white person, what steps are you taking to further educate yourself on the systematic oppression of black people? How are you contributing to it’s demise? My brothers and sisters in the Latinx, Asian, Native, Islander, and other minority communities around our nation — how are you uplifting the stories of Black people and their trauma with systematic oppression? How are you contributing to change not only for black folks, but for non-white communities (including yours) on today? To my family in the black community, how are you - as an individual- contributing to the reconstruction of the justice system and the deconstruction of systemic prejudice and racism in America? Where do we go from here?
While reflection is only a small part of the changes necessary, it is a pivotal tool in understanding progress. For the past few weeks, I’ve reflected on the fact that black people are losing their lives simply because they are a perceived threat to others — even when calling out for their deceased mother while being strangled by a knee on their neck.
We have to reform our criminal justice system and change starts with us.
Who better to change the system than us? If you have issues you want to see changed in your community, it is up to you to change it. Not anyone else. If you’re displeased with what you’re seeing, speak up and speak out loud about it. Vote. Run for public office. Attend virtual community meetings. Setup your own community organization. Don’t sit online and complain about what you see because it’s not constructive. Change doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t happen at the feet of idle hands.
As a student, I was told that I could be anything and do anything my heart was set on. I was also told by a former TFA corps member and educator that I would never graduate high school and would be incarcerated by the age of 16. I entered TFA to spark change in the organization and to let my story be heard that anything is possible even with the color of skin that I have. I chose to teach because I want my kids to know that they are loved and that someone cares about their education and growth even if no one else does. You have to be the change you seek in the world we live in. That’s why I ran to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives.
While my race to represent District 56 did not end in a favorable result, I can say that I am happy with the campaign we ran and the amazing team that I was honored to have. Once again, I set out to make history, just as we did in 2018. Not for personal gain but because I believe in a better city and a better state and I’m a strong believer in being the change we want to see in the world. We have so much work to do but I realize in the face of a global health pandemic, a movement for equity in race, and the largest voting disenfranchisement and suppression procedures in the history of Fulton County and the State of Georgia since poll taxes and literacy tests, our race was an uphill battle.
I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge and neither have my friends and neighbors in District 56. But as elections go, I am honored to have received support from neighbors and friends in this endeavor. I recognize that 2019-2020 has been dubbed the Year of the Woman. While this was a disappointing outcome, I wholeheartedly congratulate and support Meesha Mainor as she assumes the position in the next legislative session. Right now, especially during these trying times, I realize that unity is more powerful than division. We must come together to work as a collective to move our community forward.
I want to personally thank all of my family, friends, campaign staff and team members, volunteers, seniors, the boys from my teams, and most importantly my neighbors for allowing me to take the journey. I realize and understand that service is a privilege and while I will not be serving the residents of District 56, I will continue to serve all of the folks on the westside in the best way that I can.
Proverbs 3:5-6 reads “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” As for the future, the only thing I know for sure is that I will be returning to my schools campus for football related workouts this week after the GHSA approved the resolution to return to practice. I look forward to continuing to teach American Government and leading my families non-profit, The King Academy.
More importantly though, everyone must continue to vote! We have real issues in our country and while voting is not an immediate benefit in many cases, it can assist with trickle down change. I charge you to take personal time for yourself... and then use this time to educate yourself on Juneteenth, sign the petition to charge the murderous officers in Breonna Taylor’s wrongful death, and call your State Representatives and Senators in Georgia and urge them to pass Hate Crimes Legislation. We have much work to do... and as Nipsey said, The Marathon Continues.